The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded to journalists Ressa and Muratov

MANILA, Philippines (AP) – Journalists Maria Ressa from the Philippines and Dmitry Muratov from Russia won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2021 Friday for their fight for free speech in countries where journalists have faced persistent attacks, harassment and even murder.

“Free, independent and fact-based journalism serves to protect against abuse of power, lies and war propaganda,” said Berit Reiss-Andersen, chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, explaining why the award went to two journalists.

“Without freedom of speech and freedom of the press, it will be difficult to successfully promote brotherhood between nations, disarmament and a better world order in order to succeed in our time,” she said.

The Nobel Committee noted that in 2012, Ressa co-founded Rappler, a news website that has focused critical attention on President Rodrigo Duterte’s “controversial, murderous drug campaign” in the Philippines.

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

Muratov was one of the founders in 1993 of the independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta, which the Nobel Committee called “the most independent newspaper in Russia today, with a fundamentally critical attitude to power.”

“The newspaper’s fact – based journalism and professional integrity have made it an important source of information on criticisable aspects of Russian society that are rarely mentioned by other media,” it added.

Ressa, the first Filipino to win the Peace Prize and the first woman to be honored with a Nobel Prize this year, was convicted of libel last year and sentenced to prison in a decision seen as a major blow to pushing global freedom.

She said she hopes the award will strengthen investigative journalism “that will hold power accountable.”

“This relentless campaign of harassment and intimidation against me and my fellow journalists in the Philippines is a clear example of a global trend in which journalists and freedom of the press are facing increasingly unfavorable conditions,” she told the Associated Press.

She also pointed to social media giants like Facebook as a serious threat to democracy, saying “they actually prioritized spreading lies that were laced with anger and hatred over facts.”

“I did not think that what we were going through would get that attention. But the fact that it did, also shows you how important the battles we face are not, right? ” she said. “This is how our election will be next year. It’s a battle of facts. When you’re in a fight over facts, journalism is activism. ”

Muratov said he would use his victory to help independent journalists who have faced growing pressure from the authorities, including those whose organizations were declared “foreign agents” – a term that threatens to bring more government control.

“We will use it to reinforce Russian journalism that has been subjected to repression,” he said in comments from a Russian messaging app channel. “We will try to help the people who have been designated as agents, have faced persecution and have been forced out of the country.”

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 17 media workers were killed in the Philippines in the last decade and 23 in Russia.

The Nobel Committee noted that since the newspaper’s launch, six of its journalists have been killed, among them Anna Politkovskaya, which covered Russia’s bloody conflict in Chechnya.

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev used some of his prize money from winning the Nobel Prize in 1990 to help what would become Novaya Gazeta buy office equipment and computers.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov praised Muratov as a “talented and brave” person.

“We can congratulate Dmitry Muratov – he has consistently worked in accordance with his ideals,” Peskov said in a conference call with journalists.

Moscow-based political analyst Abbas Gallyamov said the award was “a painful strike against the Russian authorities … because freedom of speech and the principles of independent journalism are an evil in the eyes of the Russian authorities.”

Some critics questioned whether the award respected Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel’s will and its original purpose of preventing war, but Dan Smith, director of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, said it was justified.

“Freedom of speech is part of democracy, and democratic systems have proven to be more stable, less likely to go to war with each other, less likely to experience civil war,” Smith said.

Reiss-Andersen noted that the Peace Prize has previously gone to journalists, including Ernesto Teodoro Moneta of Italy in 1907 to promote pacifism, and Carl von Ossietzky of Germany in 1935 after the revelation of the Nazi regime was secretly re-armed in violation of World War I peace agreement.

Reiss-Andersen also noted the risks of free speech today due to the spread of fake news.

“Disseminating false news and information that is propaganda and untrue is also a violation of freedom of expression, and all freedom of expression has its limitations. It is also a very important factor in this debate, ”she said.

The media rights group Reporters Without Borders celebrated the announcement, expressing “joy and urgency.”

“Joy, because this is an extraordinary tribute to journalism, an excellent tribute to all journalists who take risks around the world to defend the right to information,” said the group’s director Christophe Deloire from the Paris headquarters. ‘And also urgent because it will be a crucial decade for journalism. Journalism is in danger, journalism is weakened, journalism is threatened. Democracies are weakened by disinformation, by rumors, by hate speech. ”

The group, known under its French acronym RSF, has worked with Ressa and Muratov to defend journalism in their countries and regularly comes under criticism from authoritarian governments.

PEN America, a free speech group, called it a timely award because of the “unique threat” journalists face in authoritarian societies.

Following the announcement, the Nobel Committee itself was put on the spot by a reporter who asked about its decision to award the Peace Prize in 2019 to the Prime Minister of Ethiopia Abiy Ahmed, who has since become embroiled in a domestic conflict with the powerful Tigray region.

“Today I will not comment on other Nobel laureates and other issues than we have on the table today, but I can mention that the situation of press freedom in Ethiopia is very far from ideal and faces serious restrictions,” Reiss-Andersen said. .

The prize is accompanied by a gold medal and 10 million Swedish kroner (over 1.14 million dollars). The prize money comes from a scholarship from Nobel, who died in 1895.

This week, the Nobel Committee awarded the following prizes:

– The prize in physiology or medicine went to the Americans David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian for their discoveries of how the human body perceives temperature and touch.

– The prize in physics went to three researchers whose work found order in apparent disorder, helps explain and predict complex forces of nature, including expanding our understanding of climate change.

– The prize in chemistry went to Benjamin List and David WC MacMillan to find an easier and environmentally cleaner way to build molecules which can be used to make compounds, including medicines and pesticides.

-The prize for literature went to the British Tanzanian author Abdulrazak Gurnah, which was recognized for its “uncompromising and compassionate intrusion into the effects of colonialism and the fate of the refugee.”

The prize for excellent work in the field of economics still awaits on Monday.

___

Jordans reported from Berlin and Gera from Warsaw, Poland. Associated Press authors Masha Macpherson in Paris, Jan M. Olsen in Copenhagen, Denmark and Vladimir Isachenkov in Russia contributed.

___

Read more stories about Nobel Prizes past and present by The Associated Press at https://www.apnews.com/NobelPrizes

Give a Comment