Most Influential People2019

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Maria Ressa

By Madeleine Albright
Maria Ressa, journalist, author, and CEO of Rappler► Watch
Moises Saman—Magnum Photos for TIME

Soon after learning that she was one of a group of journalists being honored by TIME as Person of the Year in 2018, Filipino reporter Maria Ressa had a startling realization—she was the only one of the honorees who was not either dead, a recent survivor of a deadly attack or imprisoned. She has since been arrested and released on bail multiple times.

Around the world, a new generation of authoritarian leaders is leading a concerted and intentional assault on truth, with serious consequences for journalists such as Maria who are committed to exposing corruption, documenting abuse and combatting misinformation.

Maria’s Manila-based news site, Rappler, has already been indicted by President Duterte’s government on questionable tax-evasion charges, and Maria was arrested and briefly imprisoned earlier this year for allegedly violating a dubious “cyber-libel” law. But Maria remains undaunted.

When I presented her with the National Democratic Institute’s highest honor in 2017, she spoke of the hard work and courage of her colleagues at Rappler: “We are journalists, and we will not be intimidated. We will shine the light. We will hold the line.” That is precisely what she has done.

Albright is a former U.S. Secretary of State