Rappler’s Maria Ressa, Russia’s Dmitry Muratov win 2021 Nobel Peace Prize

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The Nobel Peace Prize for 2021 announced in Oslo today. Video: Rappler livestream

Pacific Media Watch newsdesk

Rappler chief executive Maria Ressa of the Philippines and Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov have been jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2021 in an unprecedented recognition of journalism’s role in today’s world.

They won the prize “for their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace”, reports Rappler.

Ressa has been the target of attacks for her media organisation’s critical coverage of President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration and a key leader in the global fight against disinformation.

Ressa is the first Filipino to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

In the past, two Filipinos were part of international teams that won the Nobel as a group.

Franz Ontal was one of the officers of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons that won the prize in 2013, while former Ateneo de Manila University president Father Jett Villarin was part of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that won in 2007 together with former US Vice-President Al Gore.

The award-giving body also acknowledged Muratov, one of the founders and the editor-in-chief of the independent newspaper Novaja Gazeta, for his decades of defending “freedom of speech in Russia under increasingly challenging conditions”.

Combating ‘troll factories’
Announcing the award today, the Norwegian Nobel Committee said the newspaper was “the most independent newspaper in Russia,” publishing critical articles on “corruption, police violence, unlawful arrests, electoral fraud and ‘troll factories,’ to the use of Russian military forces both within and outside Russia”.

Rappler's Maria Ressa and Russia's Dmitry Muratov
Rappler’s Maria Ressa and Russia’s Dmitry Muratov … they have won the Nobel Peace Prize “for their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression”. Montage: Rappler

He is the first Russian to win the Nobel Peace Prize since Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev – who himself helped set up Novaya Gazeta with the money he received from winning the award in 1990.

“Free, independent and fact-based journalism serves to protect against abuse of power, lies and war propaganda,” the committee said in a press release.

“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.”

Ressa and Muratov are the latest journalists to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, the world’s most prestigious political accolade.

In February, Norwegian labour leader and parliamentary representative Jonas Gahr Støre nominated Ressa, Reporters Without Borders, and the Committee to Protect Journalists for the 2021 Prize.

Symbol for thousands of journalists
“She is thus both a symbol and a representative of thousands of journalists around the world. The nomination fulfills key aspects of what is emphasized as peace-promoting in Alfred Nobel’s will.

“A free and independent press can inform about and help to limit and stop a development that leads to armed conflict and war,” Støre said in his nomination.

Skei Grande, former leader of Norway’s Liberal Party, also nominated the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) at the Poynter Institute for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Rappler is one of the two verified signatories of IFCN’s Code of Principles in the Philippines – the other being Vera Files.

Here is Rappler’s statement on Friday’s announcement:

“Rappler is honoured – and astounded – by the Nobel Peace Prize Award given to our CEO Maria Ressa. It could not have come at a better time – a time when journalists and the truth are being attacked and undermined.

“We thank the Nobel for recognising all journalists both in the Philippines and in the world who continue to shine the light even in the darkest and toughest hours.

“Thank you to everyone who has been part of the daily struggle to uphold the truth and who continues to hold the line with us. Congratulations, Maria!”

Under attack
The attacks against Ressa and Rappler have reached the world stage. When Duterte assumed office in 2016 and launched his signature bloody drug war, Rappler cast a harsh light on the extrajudicial killings the President himself encouraged.

In June 2020, Ressa and former researcher Reynaldo Santos Jr. were convicted of cyber libel – a judgment Rappler regards as a failure of justice and democracy.

Ressa and Santos are out on bail, and have filed their appeal with the Court of Appeals.

This is one of at least seven active cases pending in court against Rappler as of August 10, 2021.

An award-winning documentary A Thousand Cuts, released in 2020 by Filipino-American filmmaker Ramona Diaz, outlines Rappler’s journey and the fight for press freedom in the country.

Before founding Rappler, she focused on investigating terrorism in Southeast Asia as she reported for CNN’s Manila and Jakarta bureaus.

A Rappler report with news agency coverage. Republished with permission.

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