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Journalists Win Nobel Peace Prize for Quest for Freedom of Expression

Nobel Peace Prize
The Oslo Faculty of Law, the venue of the Nobel Peace Prize ceremonies. The Peace Prize for 2021 has been awarded to two journalists, Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov. Credit: Wolfmann/CC BY-SA 4.0

Journalists Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2021 for their ongoing efforts to defend freedom of expression in their homes countries of the Philippines and Russia.

In its Friday afternoon announcement, the Nobel committee stated that the pair were”representatives of all journalists who stand up for this ideal.”

Ressa, the co-founder the news site Rappler, won the Nobel for using her journalistic skills to “expose abuse of power, use of violence and growing authoritarianism in her native country, the Philippines,” the Nobel Committee stated.

Chosen out of a field of 329 candidates, Ressa stated on a live broadcast of the announcement on her own platform that she was “in shock.”

The journalist went on to say that winning the coveted prize demonstrates that “nothing is possible without facts… a world without facts means a world without truth and trust.”

Rappler officials stated that they were “honoured and astounded” that their chief executive was the recipient of this year’s Nobel Prize for Peace, adding “It could not have come at a better time – a time when journalists and the truth are being attacked and undermined.”

In May of this year, the Philippine journalist won the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize as well.

In praise for the other Peace Prize winner for 2021, the Nobel committee said that Muratov, the co-founder and editor of the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta, had spent his career defending freedom of speech in Russia under difficult and even dangerous conditions.

Responding to the announcement in an interview with the Telegram show Podyom, Muratov stated “I’m laughing. I didn’t expect this at all. It’s madness here.”

He went on to state that his winning of the Nobel was “retribution for Russian journalism, which is being repressed now.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov weighed in on the win for the veteran editor, stating “He persistently works in accordance with his own ideals, he is devoted to them, he is talented, he is brave.”

The Nobel Peace Prize committee lauded the Russian and Philippine journalists, saying “Free, independent and fact-based journalism serves to protect against abuse of power, lies and war propaganda.”

The Prize, given out every year, is intended to honor an individual or organization that has “done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations.”

“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 Committee added.

Ressa, whose website publicized exposes on the Philippine government, co-founded the news outlet in 2012. With no less than 4.5 million Facebook followers, it was won plaudits for its no-holds barred investigations into the shady world of Philippine politics and is one of the few organizations that dares to levy criticism at Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.

Taking a special interest in the spread of government propaganda spread through social media, Rappler has also published stories on the hardline stance of the Philippine government’s war on drugs, as well as exposes on misogyny, corruption and human right issues in the country.

Already the target of numerous legal challenges, which she states are politically motivated, Ressa has steadfastly continued to publish her investigations, whatever the personal cost to herself.

Philippine journalist Ellen Tordesillas told the BBC in an interview that Ressa was “admired as one of those who stood up to Duterte.”

Muratov, the co-founder of Novaya Gazeta back in 1993, has been its editor since that time, continuing to publish its criticisms of President Vladimir Putin as one of the only such independent news outlets in the world of Russian journalism.

The Gazeta has investigated corruption in the ruling elite of Russia, bringing attention to those who have suffered from their actions. No less than six of its journalists — including Anna Politkovskaya, have been murdered for their work.

Ploitkovskaya was gunned down outside her home as she entered her vehicle several years ago.

The Gazette has received threats and has been harassed over its unflinching coverage of the news, including its reports about human rights problems in Chechnya.

The winner of the Nobel Peace Prize last year was the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), which was recognized for its campaign to reduce hunger and improve the lives of the needy worldwide.

Other winners of the Prize include former US President Jimmy Carter; human rights activist Malala Yousafzai; the European Union; the United Nations and UNSG Kofi Annan; and Mother Teresa, who won the Prize back in 1979.

Ressa and Muratov were chosen out of a field of 329 candidates for the Prize.

The winners of the Peace prize are granted 10m Swedish krona, or $1.1 million to use in any way they choose to further their work.

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