The Nobel Peace Prize awarded to 2 journalists, highlighting the fight for press freedom
Seeking to bolster press freedom as journalists come under increasing pressure from authoritarian governments and other hostile forces, the Norwegian Nobel Committee on Friday awarded the Peace Prize to two journalists thousands of miles apart for their efforts. tireless efforts to hold the powerful to account.
The journalists, Maria Ressa from the Philippines and Dmitri A. Muratov from Russia, were honored for “their courageous fight for freedom of expression, which is a prerequisite for democracy and lasting peace”.
“They are representatives of all journalists who defend this ideal in a world where democracy and press freedom face increasingly unfavorable conditions,” the committee said in a statement released after the announcement to Oslo.
Ms Ressa – a Fulbright scholar, who was also named Time magazine’s 2018 Person of the Year for her work in the crusade against disinformation – has been a constant thorn in the side of Rodrigo Duterte, her country’s authoritarian president .
The digital media company for investigative journalism she co-founded, Rappler, has exposed government corruption and has researched the financial assets and potential conflicts of interest of prominent politicians. He also did pioneering work on the Duterte government’s violent drug campaign.
“The death toll is so high that the campaign looks like a war against the country’s own people,” the committee said. Ms. Ressa and Rappler also documented how social media is used to spread fake news, harass opponents and manipulate public discourse.
She is only the 18th woman to win the Peace Prize in 120 years of history. Speaking on Rappler’s Facebook Live platform, Ms. Ressa said she hoped the award was “recognition of how difficult it is to be a journalist today.”
“This is for you, Rappler,” she said, her voice cracking slightly, adding that she hopes “for the energy for all of us to continue the battle for the facts.”
Mr. Muratov has defended freedom of expression in Russia for decades, working under increasingly difficult conditions. Hours after news of the awards ceremony was announced, the Kremlin stepped up its crackdown on critics, calling nine journalists and activists “foreign agents,” a designation that places heavy demands on them.
One of the founders of the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta in 1993, Mr. Muratov has served as its editor since 1995. Despite a relentless avalanche of harassment, threats, violence and even killings, the newspaper has continued to appear.
Since its inception, six journalists at the newspaper have been killed, the committee noted, citing Anna Politkovskaya, who wrote revealing articles on the war in Chechnya.
“Despite the murders and threats, editor-in-chief Muratov refused to abandon the newspaper’s independent policy,” the committee wrote. “He has always championed the right of journalists to write whatever they want about what they want, as long as they uphold the professional and ethical standards of journalism.”
Many Russian dissidents hoped and waited for the prize to go to Aleksei A. Navalny, the jailed opposition leader, expressing his anger and disappointment at being ignored.
Mr Muratov said the prize came as a surprise – and that he too would have given it to Mr Navalny. He told Russian media he ignored several unidentified calls from Norway on Friday as he argued with one of his reporters; in the end, his press officer warned him a few seconds before the announcement.
He said he would donate some of the prize money to fighting spinal muscular atrophy, a cause he has long championed, and to support journalism against pressure from Russian authorities.
“The fight against the media is not a fight against the media,” Muratov said in a radio interview on Friday. “It’s a fight against the people.
This year was only the third time in the award’s 120-year history that journalists have been honored for their contributions to the cause of peace. Ernesto Moneta, newspaper editor and leader of the Italian peace movement, won the award in 1907. And Carl von Ossietzky, German journalist, pacifist and anti-Nazist, imprisoned by Hitler, won the 1935 award.
The Nobel committee chose from 329 candidates, one of the largest pools ever considered. Those who had been considered favorites included climate change activists, political dissidents and scientists whose work has helped fight the Covid-19 pandemic.
In its quote, the committee said that “free, independent and fact-based journalism serves to protect against abuse of power, lies and war propaganda.”
“Without freedom of speech and freedom of the press,” the committee said, “it will be difficult to successfully promote brotherhood among nations, disarmament and a better world order to be successful in our time.”