Dogged Filipino, Russian free press adherents win Nobel Peace Prize

Filipino journalist Maria Ressa, whose digital investigative media outfit has been chronicling abuses and excesses of power in the Phillipines, especially in the present, and Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov, who is heading a free paper taking a critical view of the government for nearly a quarter-century now in face of all challenges, were on Friday conferred the Nobel Peace Prize for 2021.

Announcing the 2021 laureates, the Norwegian Nobel Committee said that it chose Ressa, the founder and chief of Rappler, and Muratov, the founder of Russian daily Novaya Gazeta, for “their courageous fight for freedom of expression”, and as “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”.

Stressing that “free, independent and fact-based journalism serves to protect against abuse of power, lies, and war propaganda”, it said it “is convinced that freedom of expression and freedom of information help ensure an informed public” and that 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 Committee said.

It noted that 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, and thus, this year’s Nobel Peace Prize award “is therefore firmly anchored in the provisions of Alfred Nobel’s will”.

The Committee said Ressa has used freedom of expression to expose abuse of power, use of violence and growing authoritarianism in her native country, the Philippines. As a journalist and CEO of the Rapplers, which she co-founded in 2012, she has “shown herself to be a fearless defender of freedom of expression”.

Rappler has focused critical attention on the Rodrigo Duterte regime’s “controversial, murderous anti-drug campaign”, which has led to so many deaths that it “resembles a war waged against the country’s own population”.

Ressa and Rappler have also documented how social media is being used to spread fake news, harass opponents and manipulate public discourse, it added.

The Committee said that Muratov has, for decades, defended freedom of speech in Russia “under increasingly challenging conditions”.

Muratov was one of the founders in 1993, and Editor-in-Chief since 1995, of the Novaya Gazeta, whose “fact-based journalism and professional integrity have made it an important source of information on censurable aspects of Russian society rarely mentioned by other media”.

“Since its start-up in 1993, Novaya Gazeta has published critical articles on subjects ranging from corruption, police violence, unlawful arrests, electoral fraud and ‘troll factories’ to the use of Russian military forces both within and outside Russia,” it said, despite its opponents having “responded with harassment, threats, violence, and murder” with six of its top journalists killed, including Anna Politkovskaya who wrote revealing articles on the war in Chechnya.

However, “Muratov has refused to abandon the newspaper’s independent policy. He has consistently defended the right of journalists to write anything they want about whatever they want, as long as they comply with the professional and ethical standards of journalism,” the Committee said.