She shares the honor with Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee has just announced that it is awarding the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize to journalists Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov.
Ressa and Muratov, the committee recognized in their announcement, have worked at safeguarding “freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace,” and that they are “receiving the peace prize for their courageous fight for freedom of expression in the Philippines and Russia.”
Given to either individuals or organizations, the prestigious honor has been awarded annually (with a few exceptions) since 1901. Previous laureates include Jimmy Carter, Barrack Obama, Al Gore, Kofi Annan, and Nelson Mandela. Last year, it was awarded to the World Food Programme.
The 58-year-old Ressa, who was on the cover of Lifestyle Asia’s September 2020 issue, is the first Filipino Nobel Laureate. She “uses freedom of expression to explore abuse of power, use of violence and growing authoritarianism in her native country,” reads the Nobel committee’s statement.
Because of her strong stance against Rodrigo Duterte’s government, particularly its murderous anti-drug campaign, she has received backlash from the administration. Ressa and her media company have noted “how social media is being used to spread fake news, harass opponents and manipulate public discourse,” the Nobel post goes.
Last year, the Rappler CEO and founder was convicted of cyberlibel, under the government’s Anti-Cybercrime Law, which many have regarded as an attack on press freedom.
“I don’t think we’re doing anything other than our jobs,” Ressa says in her Lifestyle Asia cover story last year. “It’s more challenging. It’s certainly more dangerous in the sense that—my gosh, in order to do what I did—to be a journalist, you can go to jail now.”
Many Filipinos, she opines in the same article, believe in the same values, but are scared. “And it’s okay to be scared. But we gain protection and power together. That is what civic engagement is,” she continues. “That is what democracy is. So what do we do? You realize that what you do matters. If you are Filipino and you care about the constitution, you care about the future. You’re going to reclaim your rights.”
On the other hand, Nobel emphasized Muratov’s defense of Russian freedom of speech, which he has done so for decades under increasingly challenging circumstances.
“In 1993, he was one of the founders of the independent newspaper Novaja Gazeta,” Nobel sways. “Since 1995 he has been the newspaper’s editor-in-chief for a total of 24 years. Novaja Gazeta is the most independent newspaper in Russia today, with a fundamentally critical attitude toward power.
According to Nobel, Novaja Gazeta’s “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.”
“I don’t think I have a choice because if I am who I am, and I believe in the standards and ethics and the mission of journalism which I do, then I don’t have any other choice,” Ressa says in a conversation on former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. “And I feel like you know, you don’t really know who you are until you’re tested. It’s up to what you compromise. That defines who you are.”
As a check and balance, fact-based and independent media serve to protect against abuses of power, lies, and propaganda, the selection committee points out.
“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,” the statement reads.” This year’s award of the Nobel Peace Prize is therefore firmly anchored in the provisions of Alfred Nobel’s will.”
Banner Photo by TOM EPPERSON