The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded on Friday to journalists Maria Ressa of the Philippines and Dmitry Muratov of Russia for their fight for freedom of expression in their countries.
“Ms. Ressa and Mr. Muratov are receiving the Peace Prize for their courageous fight for freedom of expression in the Philippines and Russia,” Chairwoman Berit Reiss-Andersen of the Norwegian Nobel Committee told a news conference.
Ressa, 58, told Norwegian TV2 she was “shocked” and “emotional” to receive the honour, which she said would give her and her colleagues “tremendous energy to continue the fight.”
The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided to award the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize to Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov for their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace.#NobelPrize #NobelPeacePrize pic.twitter.com/KHeGG9YOTT
— The Nobel Prize (@NobelPrize) October 8, 2021
In 2012, Ressa co-founded Rappler, a digital media company for investigative journalism, which she still heads, while Muratov is one of the founders of the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta.
Rappler has “focused critical attention on the Duterte regime’s controversial, murderous anti-drug campaign,” Reiss-Andersen said.
“The number of deaths is so high that the campaign resembles a war waged against the country’s own population,” Reiss-Andersen said.
Ressa and Rappler have also documented how social media is being used to spread fake news, harass opponents and manipulate public discourse.
Ressa, a former CNN correspondent who also holds US citizenship, is currently on bail pending an appeal against a conviction last year in a cyber libel case, for which she faces up to six years in prison.
Foreign agent designation ‘key method’ for repressing Russian journalism
Tribute to slain journalists
Muratov, 59, has defended freedom of speech in Russia for decades, under increasingly challenging conditions.
In 1993, he was a founder of Novaya Gazeta, which has a “fundamentally critical attitude towards power” the committee said. He has been its editor-in-chief since 1995.
Co-founded by former Soviet leader and another Nobel Peace laureate Mikhail Gorbachev in 1993, Novaya Gazeta is one of the few media outlets left in Russia voicing criticism of President Vladimir Putin.
“This is good, very good news,” Gorbachev told reporters, calling Muratov a “courageous” journalist.
Novaya 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 Politkovskaya 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,” Reiss-Andersen said.
“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.”
Reporters without Borders: Award for ‘courageous’ journalism sends a ‘strong message’
Speaking to reporters outside the Novaya Gazeta newsroom, Muratov dedicated the award to the paper’s “fallen” journalists who “gave up their lives for their profession”.
He added that the prize should have gone instead to jailed Russian dissident Alexei Navalny – widely regarded as President Vladimir Putin’s most formidable critic, who was jailed in January upon his return to Russia, five months after he was poisoned with the nerve agent Novichok and transferred to Germany for medical treatment.
“I would have voted for the person that the bookmakers were counting on, but I think that person has everything ahead of him. I am referring to Alexei Navalny,” Muratov said.
After the announcement on Friday, the United Nations’ human rights office congratulated Ressa and Muratov on receiving the prize, saying it was “recognition of the importance of the work of journalists in the most difficult circumstances”.
“Throughout the years we’ve seen an increase in attacks in journalists during the Covid lockdown as well,” spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani told journalists at a UN briefing in Geneva.
“I think I’d speak for the High Commissioner (Michelle Bachelet) when I say congratulations to all journalists out there who are doing their job to keep us informed and to amplify the voices of victims everywhere,” she added.
The Kremlin meanwhile also congratulated Muratov on winning the prize despite the fact that his newspaper has often criticised the Russian authorities.
“We can congratulate Dmitry Muratov,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
“He persistently works in accordance with his own ideals, he is devoted to them, he is talented, he is brave,” said Peskov.
The 2021 prize is the first for journalists since the German Carl von Ossietzky won it in 1935 for revealing his country’s secret post-war rearmament programme.
The Nobel Peace Prize will be presented on December 10, the anniversary of the death of Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel, who founded the awards in his 1895 will.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)