Maria Ressa among BBC’s 100 'inspiring and influential' women of 2019

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Rappler CEO and executive editor Maria Ressa is among BBC’s 100 "inspiring and influential" women of 2019, joining the likes of US congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, climate change activist Greta Thunberg, and Best FIFA Women's Player Megan Rapinoe.

The British public service broadcaster said the women on the list “give us their vision of what life could look like in 2030" and who are "using their extraordinary personal experiences to blaze a path for those who follow."

Ressa was recognized for being an “outspoken critic” of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s violent war on drugs and for setting up Manila-based news website Rappler to expose fake news under the Duterte administration. 

“For the next generation, the battle is going to be the battle for truth,” said Ressa.

“What’s happening to us in the Philippines isn't unique – we are just the canary in the coal mine. You have to shine the light, you have to speak, you have to say what is happening," she added.

An award-winning journalist for more than 30 years, Ressa co-founded Rappler in 2012. She was former CNN bureau chief and ABS-CBN News executive.

Since rising to power in 2016, Duterte has subjected Rappler and Ressa to threats, harassment, and intimidation over the news organization's critical coverage of disinformation on social media and the bloody war on drugs, among others. (READ: LIST: Cases vs Maria Ressa, Rappler directors, staff since 2018)

Amal Clooney and Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC, who both specialize in international law and human rights, are Ressa’s international counsels

This year, Ressa continues to receive a number of awards for her quest to protect press freedom, including the Tully Award for Free Speech, the Columbia Journalism Award, and Stanford's Shorenstein Journalism Award.

The Rappler chief was also named among Time Magazine’s most influential people of 2019.

'Female Future'

The BBC's said it the final list was based on names gathered by the 100 Women team and suggested by the BBC's network of World Service languages teams.

"We were looking for candidates who had made the headlines or influenced important stories over the past 12 months, as well as those who have inspiring stories to tell, achieved something significant or influenced their societies in ways that wouldn't necessarily make the news," BBC said.

"The pool of names was then assessed against this year's theme – the Female Future – and measured for regional representation and due impartiality, before the final 100 were chosen," it added.

The list is divided into 6 categories:  Earth, Knowledge, Creativity, Sport, Identity, and Leadership, where Ressa was included. 

Among the others on the BBC list is New York 14th District Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the youngest woman elected to the US Congress at 29 years old. She advocates for a progressive platform, including Medicare for all and opposition to US President Donald Trump immigration policy. 

Thunberg is a 16-year-old climate change activist from Sweden. She inspired a global movement after protesting outside the Swedish parliament alone to call for stronger action against global warming when she was just 15 years old. (READ: 'How dare you?' Greta Thunberg asks world leaders at U.N.)

Rapinoe led the US Women's National Team to the championship in the 2019 Women's World Cup. She had snubbed Trump's invitation to visit the White House as part of her protest against the US leader's racist and sexist pronouncements. 

The honor list also includes Malaysian transgender activist Nisha Ayub, the first transgender woman to be named one of the US State Department’s International Women of Courage in 2016, in recognition of her fight for rights and equality.

Journalist and activist Asmaa James of Sierra Leone has provided a voice to her country’s voiceless through her work, including launching a campaign that prompted reforms in Sierra Leone’s sexual violence policies. 

Mexican computer programmer Paola Villarreal “helped reverse 20,000 racially-biased drugs convictions by developing Data for Justice, a tool with an interactive map comparing police activity in white and minority neighborhoods.”

Sister Gerard Fernandez, an 81-year-old Catholic nun in Singapore, worked for 3 decades as a death row counselor; while Venezuelan artist Luchita Hurtado held her first solo show at a public gallery at age 98. –

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.