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Merrill College

Merrill College Establishes Annual Maria Ressa Prizes for Courage in Journalism, to Host 2021 Nobel Peace Prize Winner at UMD in March

COLLEGE PARK — The University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism has established the Maria Ressa Prizes for Courage in Journalism, a new annual award central to the college’s press freedom mission.

Maria Ressa Prizes promo graphicThe awards honor Ressa, the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize winner and acclaimed champion of global press freedom, who will accept the inaugural prize on UMD’s campus on March 13. 

Also accepting Courage in Journalism awards at the March event will be ProPublica, the Marion County Record and The Daily Northwestern. The Wall Street Journal’s Evan Gershkovich, detained in Russia since March 2023, will be honored with a special citation.

Ressa will deliver the keynote address at the inaugural ceremony, which will be held at Riggs Alumni Center. Winners of the three other Ressa Prizes will also speak on their honored work at the event, which will be open to the public. Registration is now open at

The Maria Ressa Prizes for Courage in Journalism has been made possible by the generous support of First Look Institute.

The Maria Ressa Prize for Courage in Journalism is awarded each year to the individual journalist or news organization anywhere in the world that exhibits journalistic courage in the face of serious threats from governments or other powerful forces. 

As co-founder and CEO of Rappler, the top digital-only news site leading the fight for press freedom in the Philippines, Ressa has endured constant political harassment and arrests by the Duterte government, forced to post bail 10 times to stay free. 

“At a time when journalists and journalism are under threat from anti-democratic actors here and abroad, Maria Ressa stands as a beacon, an example of the kind of courage sometimes required to hold the most powerful in our society to account,” Merrill College Dean Rafael Lorente said. “We are honored that Maria will accept the inaugural prize named in her honor and hope that it serves as a beacon of courage for many years to come.” 

Merrill College will additionally give out annual awards for courage in investigative journalism, local or independent journalism, and student journalism. Each of the four awards will come with a $3,000 cash prize.

The Maria Ressa Prize for Courage in Investigative Journalism will honor reporting by any news organization or individual reporter in the United States that showed uncommon courage, and required the journalists to stand up to powerful interests.

The inaugural winner is ProPublica for its coverage of the ethical lapses of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, including luxury trips paid for by megadonor Harlan Crow and other wealthy men.

The Maria Ressa Prize for Courage in Local or Independent Journalism will recognize courage displayed by small city newspapers, freelancers or other journalists in the United States who have stood up to powerful forces despite not having many resources.

The inaugural winner is the Marion County Record for its perseverance and continued coverage in the face of government overreach. The Kansas newspaper remained committed to its work after its offices and the home of its publisher were raided by police in August amid allegations of identity theft.

The Maria Ressa Prize for Courage in Student Journalism honors student journalists in high school or college in the United States who exhibited courage and fought for press freedom while standing up to powerful forces.

The inaugural winner is The Daily Northwestern, which revealed details of a systemic hazing culture inside the Northwestern football program and affected change, including the firing of football coach Pat Fitzgerald.

For more information, contact:
Josh Land

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