Nobel Peace Prize awarded to Filipino and Russian press freedom advocates

The Norwegian Nobel Committee on Friday awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to journalists Maria Ressa of the Philippines and Dmitry Muratov of Russia “for their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which is a prerequisite for democracy and lasting peace. “.

At a ceremony in Oslo, Norwegian Nobel Committee Chair Berit Reiss-Andersen announced the winners saying, “Ms. Ressa and Mr. Muratov receive the Peace Prize for their courageous fight for freedom of expression in the Philippines and Russia.”

In a statement, the committee said Filipino journalist Maria Ressa, co-founder and editor-in-chief of digital media company Rappler, was recognized for her fearless use of free speech to expose abuses of power, the use of violence and growing authoritarianism in his native country. country.

“I’m a bit shocked. It’s really emotional,” Ressa told reporters shortly after the announcement.

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

In an interview with VOA earlier this year, Ressa detailed several travel bans and government cases against her.

“All told, all of these charges carry a cumulative maximum sentence…I think it’s like 103 years,” she said.

FILE – Rappler CEO Maria Ressa stands before reporters outside the Court of Tax Appeals in Manila, Philippines, March 4, 2021.

But Ressa, as the Nobel committee noted, remained tireless in her work, focusing on social media misinformation and reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s controversial anti-drug campaign.

“I think what the government doesn’t know is that the abuses of power we’re experiencing are only fueling my resolve to keep my rights,” Ressa told VOA.

“I do not voluntarily waive my rights, and my job as a journalist, like yours, is to hold power to account.”

The committee honored Russian journalist Dmitry Andreyevich Muratov for his decades of defending freedom of expression in Russia under increasingly difficult conditions. In 1993 he co-founded the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta and has been its editor since 1995. Today it is considered the most independent newspaper in Russia, with a fundamentally critical attitude towards power.

But since his debut, six of Muratov’s colleagues have been killed.

“I am absolutely convinced that this prize is not mine. I am the wrong beneficiary,” Muratov told VOA in a phone call Friday.

“This prize belongs to Yuri Shchekochikhin, Igor Domnikov, Anna Politkovskaya, Stas Markelov, Anastasia Baburova, Natalya Estemirov. … This is their price. It’s as simple as that,” he said, listing his colleagues who were killed.

WATCH: Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Chats With VOA’s Danila Galperovich

The committee said the paper’s factual journalism and professional integrity have made it an important source of information about censorable aspects of Russian society. He has published critical articles on topics including corruption, police violence, unlawful arrests, electoral fraud, and the use of Russian military forces inside and outside Russia.

The Kremlin congratulated Muratov on his victory on Friday in a statement that many critics called ironic given Moscow’s targeting of his colleagues and journalists in general.

FILE - Novaya Gazeta editor-in-chief, center left, Dmitry Muratov attends a planning meeting with the editorial board, October 9, 2015, in Moscow, Russia.

FILE – Novaya Gazeta editor-in-chief, center left, Dmitry Muratov attends a planning meeting with the editorial board, October 9, 2015, in Moscow, Russia.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), 17 journalists have been killed in the Philippines and 23 in Russia over the past decade.

CPJ congratulated both recipients and applauded the Nobel committee for highlighting the importance of press freedom.

“There are a lot of challenges we face in the world today – we’re in the middle of a pandemic, we’re dealing with climate change. So the fact that they pointed to journalism and freedom of the press as a key concern, I think, really sends a powerful message,” CPJ executive director Joel Simon told VOA.

“We can’t solve any of these problems if we aren’t informed, if we don’t have information and if we don’t engage with the world – and journalists are the channel through which people get their news. “

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also praised the two journalists in a statement on Friday, stressing the importance of a free press around the world.

“No society can be free and just without journalists who can investigate wrongdoing, bring information to citizens, hold leaders accountable and speak truth to power,” he said.

“Yet anti-media rhetoric – and attacks on media workers – continue to rise,” he added, noting “growing violence and harassment” against journalists around the world.

The two journalists will share a prize money of $1.1 million.

The Nobel Prizes in Medicine, Physics, Chemistry and Literature were also awarded this week. The economics prize will be awarded on Monday.

The prizes will all be officially awarded in December. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the academy has announced that this year’s ceremony will be a mix of digital and physical events. Winners will receive their Nobel Prize medals and diplomas in their home countries.

Jeff Custer, Tommy Walker, and Danila Galperovich contributed to this report. Some information comes from the Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.

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