The news that Maria Ressa has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize 2021 was greeted with joy and excitement by Meedan. Maria is a member of Meedan’s board of directors and Rappler, the organization that Maria cofounded, is a partner in our Check Global program. We are honoured and proud of our association with Maria Ressa and Rappler. The announcement of the Nobel Peace Prize comes at a crucial time as the Philippines gears up for the 2022 national and local elections. Maria and Rappler have consistently exposed the abuse of power by president Rodrigo Duterte. The award is a recognition and affirmation of Maria and Rappler’s work and is an inspiration for all of us.
Maria Ressa’s Nobel prize is also an accomplishment for women leading the fights for equality, social justice and freedom of speech across different areas and regions. As Meedan celebrates Maria Ressa’s Nobel award, women team members at Meedan, share reflections and perspectives on what this prize means to us.
Dima Saber, Check Global Program Director
There are a few women who I turn to - in my own little mind - for inspiration and a confidence boost when things get bad in the many countries where we work as part of the Check Global project; Maria Ressa is at the top of that list. You know how you tend to over-idealise people whose work you respect so deeply, that it seems almost impossible for you to imagine a situation where you are actually face-to-face (well, at least virtually) with them, asking them questions, and enjoying every bit of their responses? Well, this is exactly how it felt when I was given the opportunity to interview Maria Ressa for a Check Global network event back in May 2020, for a whole 52 minutes and 22 seconds! I found myself in front of a kind, inspiring, humble, generous, and extremely sharp woman who is today leading the way to #HoldTheLine against oppression, despotism, propaganda and disinformation in the Philippines, and beyond it, across our emerging economies. The news of Maria Ressa winning the Nobel Peace Prize felt personal; as if someone very close to me has accomplished something great. It also made me realise that the struggles of all the journalists, activists, archivists and human rights defenders - the imprisoned, the disappeared and those still fighting for the same ideas and ideals as Ressa - are seen, legitimised and recognised, and this realisation is probably one of the best and most comforting things that’s happened in 2021!
Isabella Barroso, Program Manager - Latin America
About 10 years ago when I left my career in journalism to work in technology, a lot of the reasoning at the time was based in fear. The type of investigative practice I admired and dreamed of working with was dangerous, and in some cases even deadly in Latin America. Fear stopped not only me but also a dozen of other colleagues from pursuing our objectives. At the time I had a teacher that used to say that good journalism cannot be based only on awards, she was, in her own way, saying that are more journalists creating astounding and essential political work everyday, than awards to give them. In that sense, the award to Maria Ressa is also a way to recognize the work of many others fighting to uphold truth in a polarized world. This award will be a beacon of hope, and of inspiration to women journalists everywhere. It whispers: if you stay true, even though it won’t be safe for a while yet, your work can be a light for others. I forwarded the news of this award to a few of my old classmates, and we all shared a moment of pure happiness, not only for her, but also for the future of women journalists and activists everywhere; may they follow Maria Ressa’s light, and never give up.
Jenna Sherman, Program Manager, Digital Health Lab
Maria Ressa’s Nobel Prize signifies to me the criticality of fighting for truth and just how high the stakes are of doing so. We strive to integrate Maria’s fervent commitment to objectivity and human rights into our every day work at Meedan, using that spirit to guide work that is often difficult and during circumstances that are often dark. As a public health practitioner working with journalists and fact-checkers to provide high quality health information to the public — particularly those who need it most — it can sometimes feel daunting and exhausting to keep up the work amidst significant misinformation, disinformation, and harassment. I’m so deeply grateful to have joined a team where from the very top, our managers are unwavering in their beliefs in information quality and equity being cornerstones of a better, more peaceful world, and am able to tap into that belief any time I start to feel weary.
Nat Gyenes, Program Director, Digital Health Lab
Maria Ressa is a role model for what it means to be courageous, to be determined, to dedicate the time needed to create a meaningful change in a challenging, broken system. So much of the work that our team has developed is inspired by Maria’s dedication, commitment to truth and the fight towards a better future: where power comes with accountability, especially in our information ecosystem. Our team of public health researchers has been working tirelessly over the last year and a half to support challenges in information equity related to both the COVID-19 pandemic, and all of the public health issue areas disproportionately affected or left under-resourced as a result of the pandemic. Working with journalists to ensure that the latest evidence is reflected in accurate reporting is an ongoing challenge as the evidence itself continues to evolve, but it is an essential component of sustaining trust in reliable and relevant health information. Of course, this is just one part of the broader challenge, where political and other power incentives and disinformation further exacerbate the challenges of information inequity. Maria serves as a leader and inspiration for Meedan’s theory of change, and for the values that inform our work and our mission, where we prioritize our responsibility to supporting truth. This award is so, so well deserved, and is an important milestone in the global recognition that an obstruction of truth is an obstruction of peace.
Shalini Joshi, Program Director - Asia Pacific
As a woman journalist in India, I’ve always looked up to Maria Ressa as a torchbearer for freedom of expression and rights of other women journalists in the region. While women journalists are attacked, harassed, abused and maligned across Asia Pacific and in other regions, Maria shows us how to take on injustice and call out oppressors with courage and defiance. Maria Ressa being awarded the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize gives us hope that the fight for truth, facts and democracy is being recognised, upheld and validated.
As a Check Global team member, I’ve had the honour and privilege of interacting with Maria on a few occasions; her energy, humility and wittiness in all conversations make the darkest of days seem brighter. These are grim times for journalists across Asia, however, meetings with Maria fill me with hope and optimism. I consider her to be a mentor, leading the way with her charismatic presence, dynamism and her brilliant tools of investigative journalism. I am incredibly proud of our partnership with Rappler and Maria Ressa. There can be no one more deserving of the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize.
Sneha Alexander, Program Associate - Asia Pacific
As a Meedani, I have heard a lot about Maria Ressa, but have met her only once, in a virtual meeting. That left a lasting impression. The passion with which she spoke about the upcoming project that Rappler will lead in the Philippines was absolutely inspiring. It puts into perspective the importance of the work we are doing as part of the Check Global program along with a global network of journalists and fact-checkers.
While speaking truth to power can be a solitary journey, Ressa highlights the importance of supporting and collaborating with each other across our respective networks to deliver the hard hitting truth. If one falls, there should always be others to carry forward the task of speaking to power. It was the work of brave and committed journalists in India that drove me towards journalism in the early phase of my career. Listening to her, I was convinced that every young journalist should know about Maria Ressa and her work, and have the chance to interact with her.