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Maria Ressa

Maria Ressa is CNN's Jakarta bureau chief. From there, she has traveled and reported extensively in Asia, including China, Japan, South Korea, and India. Ressa was CNN's lead reporter on three tumultuous changes of governments in Southeast Asia: in Indonesia in 1998; in East Timor in 1999; and finally, in the Philippines in 2001. After the September 11 attacks in the United States, Ressa became CNN's lead investigative reporter for Asia and published her account of the growth of terror networks and their modus operandi in "Seeds of Terror: An Eyewitness Account of Al-Qaeda's Newest Center of Operations in Southeast Asia" (Free Press: December, 2003).

From her Jakarta base, Ressa reported on the dramatic political changes, economic crisis and social unrest in Indonesia - including the downfall of former President Suharto in 1998, the transitional administration of former President BJ Habibie, the troubled term in office of the country's first democratically-elected President Abdurrahman Wahid, and his replacement by President Megawati Sukarnoputri. She also focused on the roots of separatist, religious and ethnic violence - which included brutal, ritualized beheadings in West Kalimantan, separatist conflict in Aceh and Irian Jaya, religious war in Ambon.

In 1999, Ressa and her team spent much of the year in East Timor. She reported on East Timor's struggle for independence before, during and after its historic vote for independence, its violent aftermath and continuing UN efforts there. She and her team drove by land after the militia chased diplomats and journalists out of East Timor - making CNN the first international news-organization to begin reporting again - several days before the arrival of multinational forces. Ressa led CNN's coverage team on East Timor's independence day three years later.

In 2004, Ressa reported on crucial elections in Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines, focusing on their impact not only to each country and the region but to the global war on terror.

Formerly the network's Manila Bureau Chief, Ressa joined CNN in 1988. She has reported extensively on major events in the Philippines, including the six coup attempts against the Aquino administration, the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in 1991, the first democratic presidential elections in 1992 which elected President Fidel Ramos, elections in 1998 which elected President Joseph Estrada, and Asia’s first impeachment trial - including the massive protests which forced Mr. Estrada to resign and brought in the country’s 14th President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

In Malaysia she reported on key events of the past decade, including the political turmoil triggered by the arrest and jailing of Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim beginning in 1998 as well as the end of the 22 year rule of former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and the handover of power to his successor, Abdullah Badawi. She also filed daily reports from Singapore leading up to the caning of American teenager Michael Fay in 1994 and in December, 2001, followed up its discovery of terrorist cells of Jemaah Islamiyah, Al-Qaeda's arm in Southeast Asia.

She has interviewed past and present Asian heads of states including former Philippine Presidents Corazon Aquino, Fidel Ramos, Joseph Estrada, former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, Singapore’s Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew and Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong. She has done the first exclusive interviews with incoming leaders: Indonesia's BJ Habibie, Abdurrahman Wahid, Philippines' Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, and Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi. She is the only reporter from a western organization to get an exclusive interview with Indonesia's former President Suharto one year after he was forced to resign from office.

Before joining CNN, Ressa was vice president of a post-production company in Manila, where she produced weekly public affairs programs for Philippine television. From 1986 to 1987, Ressa produced weekly public affairs programs and live coverage for ABS-CBN 2 in Manila and acted as executive producer for the government station PTV 4. At PTV 4, she directed two daily prime time newscasts and helped pioneer the investigative news magazine format on Philippine television.

Ressa earned a bachelor's degree in English from Princeton University, graduating with honors. She was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to the Philippines in 1986 where she attended graduate school at the University of the Philippines. She then taught a course for the College of Mass Communications of the University of the Philippines from 1987 till 1991.

Among the awards she has received: the National Headliner Award for Investigative Journalism in 2002, the SAIS-Novartis International Journalism Award in 2000 for her work in East Timor, the Asian Television Awards in 1999 for Indonesia and the Ferris Professorship of Journalism at Princeton University for 2001. Ressa was in residence at Princeton University for the spring semester 2001 where she taught a course she designed on Politics and the Press in Southeast Asia.

 

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