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Maria Ressa, Dmitry Muratov: Journalists Under Attack Win Nobel Peace Prize 2021

The Philippines’ Ressa and Russia’s Muratov “are representatives of all journalists who stand up for this ideal in a world in which democracy and freedom of the press face increasingly adverse conditions,” says the Norwegian Nobel Committee.

JAPAN Forward

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2021 Nobel Peace Prize winners Dmitry Muratov (Novaja Gazeta) of Russia (left) and Maria Ressa (Rappler) of the Philippines (right).

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The  Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2021 on Friday, October 8, to two journalists who had carried on a “courageous fight for freedom of expression in the Philippines and in Russia.” 

Maria Ressa of the Philippines and Dmitry Muratov of Russia were cited “for their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace.”

Rappler CEO and Executive Editor Maria Ressa reacts after hearing of her winning the Nobel Peace Prize inside her home in Taguig, Metro Manila, Philippines, Friday, Oct. 8, 2021. (Rappler via AP)

Ressa is the founder and CEO of Rappler, a digital media company, while Muratov is one of the founders of the Novaja Gazeta (New Gazette) newspaper. Both media organizations are known for their independent and investigative journalism that have shaken the establishments in their respective countries, resulting in attacks on their organizations and individual journalists.  

Rappler and Novaja Gazeta have reported on corruption in government, police abuse and brutality, and online disinformation carried out by troll farms. 

Both news organizations were founded by journalists. 

Ressa and Muratov are the 7th and 8th journalists to receive the Nobel in the prize’s 120-year history (although two previous winners were recognized for their work outside of journalism).  Ressa is the first Filipino to win the award, while Muratov is the 32nd from Russia and the Soviet Union. 

Berit Reiss-Andersen, chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, said the two awardees “are representatives of all journalists who stand up for this ideal in a world in which democracy and freedom of the press face increasingly adverse conditions.”

On Friday, Oct. 8, 2021 the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to journalists Maria Ressa of the Philippines and Dmitry Muratov of Russia for their fight for freedom of expression. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez, File)

“Rappler has focused critical attention on the Duterte regime’s controversial, murderous anti-drug campaign. The number of deaths is so high that the campaign resembles a war waged against the country’s own population. Ms. Ressa and Rappler have documented how social media is being used to spread fake news, harass opponents, and manipulate public discourse,” said the Nobel announcement, read by Reiss-Andersen. 

Ressa has been arrested a few times in connection to about a dozen cases against Rappler and its journalists, ranging from cyber libel to tax evasion, filed while the organization had been winning awards for their reportage and acknowledged by its tax district as an outstanding corporate taxpayer. 

Rappler is in court battling a government order to shut it down for alleged foreign ownership, citing the Philippine Depositary Receipts donated by philanthropic investment firm Omidyar Network  – a financial instrument allowed by the Philippine government and utilized by other media organizations and telecommunications companies in the country. The government has not found fault in those other cases. 

Novaya, meanwhile, is “the most independent newspaper in Russia today, with a fundamentally critical attitude towards power. The newspaper’s fact-based journalism and professional integrity have made it an important source of information on censorable aspects of Russian society rarely mentioned by other media,” the committee said.  

It was founded in 1993 by journalists from the long-existing tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda, using former Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev’s Nobel Peace Prize cash award from 1990. (Gorbachev now owns 10% of the newspaper.) 

The Norwegian Nobel Committee on Friday, Oct. 8, 2021 awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to journalists Maria Ressa of the Philippines and Dmitry Muratov of Russia for their fight for freedom of expression. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, File)

“Novaja Gazeta’s opponents have responded with harassment, threats, violence and murder. Since the newspaper’s start, six of its journalists have been killed, including Anna Politkovskaja who wrote revealing articles on the war in Chechnya. Despite the killings and threats, editor-in-chief Muratov has refused to abandon the newspaper’s independent policy,” the committee said. 

“To what extent does the prize for journalists promote peace?” The question was asked by a journalist during the press conference following the announcement in Norway.  

“Freedom of expression and a free press is a prerequisite for democratic society. And there is a firm understanding in the Nobel committee that democratic societies prevent war and conflict. Does it abolish war and conflict totally? Probably not. But it is the best defense that a society can put up against war and conflict. And there is no democracy, neither feigned democracy nor advanced democracy, without freedom of expression,” Reiss-Andersen said. 

“The Norwegian Nobel Committee is convinced that freedom of expression and freedom of information help to ensure an informed public. These rights are crucial prerequisites for democracy and protect against war and conflict. The award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov is intended to underscore the importance of protecting and defending these fundamental rights,” the statement said. 

“Without freedom of expression and freedom of the press, it will be difficult to successfully promote fraternity between nations, disarmament and a better world order to succeed in our time. This year’s award of the Nobel Peace Prize is therefore firmly anchored in the provisions of Alfred Nobel’s will.” 

Author: JAPAN Forward