Nobel Peace Prize for Journalists Maria Ressa & Dmitry Muratov

As organisers warn about threats to independent media worldwide, Filipina and Russian are awarded the 2021 award

Nobel Peace Prize for Journalists Maria Ressa & Dmitry Muratov

The 2021 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to campaign journalists from Russia and the Philippines. This prize was given by the Norwegian Committee, which recognized the importance of independent media in democracy and warned that it was being increasingly attacked.

Berit Reiss Anderson, chair of the Norwegian Nobel committee, named Maria Ressa, chief executive officer and cofounder of Rappler and Dmitry Muratov as this year's laureates.

Reiss-Andersen stated, "Free, independent, and fact-based journalism protects against abuse of power lies and war propagandism," praising the courage of the journalists and their "courageous fight to freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy" and "a condition for lasting peace".

She said that a free press was vital to promote "fraternity among nations, disarmament, and a better order in the world", adding that Ressa, Muratov were "representatives for all journalists who stand up to this ideal in a world where democracy and freedom are facing increasingly difficult conditions".

The Russian justice ministry designated the Bellingcat investigative journalism organisation's owner as "foreign agent", meaning that they have to file financial reports and comply with other operating restrictions.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF), a press freedom NGO, said that 24 journalists were killed and 350 others were held. They called the award "a call to mobilisation to defend journalism", and they felt it had created a sense both of "joy" and "urgency".

Ressa (58), a former CNN Bureau Chief in the Philippines and Rappler, which she founded in 2012, were both investigated and charged with multiple criminal offenses after publishing articles critical of President Rodrigo Duterte's bloody drug war.

She said in emotional comments posted to Rappler's Facebook Page: "This is a recognition how difficult it is to be an journalist today. It is difficult to continue doing what you do... This acknowledgement of the difficulties and hopefully of the way we will win the fight for truth. The fight for facts. We are the ones who hold the line.

Ressa was released on bail while she appeals against her conviction in cyber libel. She faces six years in prison.

She said facts can become controversial when they are spread by "the largest global distributor of news" and that journalism is "activist journalism - it's all about facts...

Ressa's lawyer Amal Clooney said that she was proud to call her friend and client. She gave up her freedom to protect the rights of journalists around the globe. I pray that the Philippine authorities stop harassing her and other journalists and that this award helps to protect the media around the globe.

Muratov (59), who was one the founding editors of Novaya Gazeta's independent newspaper in 1993, and has been its editor since 1995, stated to the Telegram news agency Podyom that "We will continue representing Russian journalism, which is currently being suppressed." That's it.

Later, Tass reported that he stated that the award was for Novaya Gazeta and for those who died fighting for freedom of speech. They are gone now, so [the Nobel committee] decided that I should tell everyone.

Then, he listed journalists killed in Russia because of their work. This is for them.

Christophe Deloire is RSF's secretary-general. He said that there was joy because it was an "extraordinary tribute to journalism, and an excellent tribute to Maria and Dmitry". He said that there was also an urgency because journalism is at risk, journalism is weakening, and journalism is under threat... around the globe.

The RSF's most recent world rankings show that press freedom in 73% of 180 countries is either "difficult" or "very serious", while it is "good or satisfactory" for only 27%. The group claims that attempts to suppress independent media are increasing around the globe, from state censorship and physical violence to financial pressure.

According to the Nobel committee, Rappler had "critically focused attention on the Duterte regime’s controversial, murderous antidrug campaign", which had resulted in so many deaths it "resembles a war waged versus the country's population".

The committee stated that Ressa, Rappler also had "documented the use of social media to spread fake news and harass opponents, and manipulate public discourse". The committee said Muratov’s Novaya Gazeta was "the most independent newspaper today in Russia, with a fundamentally critical approach to power".

According to the committee, the paper's "fact-based journalism" and professionalism made it an important source for information about censurable aspects that are rarely covered by other media. Despite threats of violence and murder, Muratov refused to give up on the newspaper's independent policies.

Reiss-Andersen stated that he has always defended journalists' right to write about anything they like, provided they adhere to the professional and ethical standards for journalism.

Pavel Kanygin is a veteran reporter from Novaya Gazeta. He said that this was a great encouragement to us all. The last few months have been extremely difficult for Russian journalism. I hope that this will protect us from attacks by the authorities. This award is not only important for us but also for the entire Russian independent journalist community.

Dmitry Peskov (Kremlin spokesperson) congratulated Muratov for winning the prize and called him a "talented, brave" person.

This prestigious award comes with a gold medal (PS840,000) and 10m Swedish Kronor (10m Swedish kronor). Alfred Nobel, the Swedish inventor, left the prize money in a bequest. He died in 1895.

The nominees for this year were Greta Thunberg (environmental activist), Sviatlana Sikhanouskaya (politician and Belarusian human right activist), and Alexei Navalny (inmate, Russian opposition figure).

Black Lives Matter, World Health Organization, Covax vaccine sharing body and the RSF and Committee to Protect Journalists were among the organisations nominated.

Past laureates include Malala Yousafzai (Pakistani campaigner for female educational), Nelson Mandela (Anti-apartheid leader), US president Barack Obama and the Dalai Lama. Also, Mother Teresa, a Catholic missionary, Martin Luther King, civil rights leader Martin Luther King and Liu Xiaobo (Chinese writer and activist) were among the previous laureates.

Gorbachev, who contributed to the funding of Novaya Gazeta's launch with the proceeds from his prize, stated that the decision was "good news for the world of press."

He said, "This is very good news." "This award elevates the importance and value of the press in modern times to great heights."

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