The Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to two journalists with a long track record of fighting to protect freedom of expression: Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov, working in the Philippines and Russia.
Both journalists are working in countries with populist governments which seem to have little respect for freedom of expression and both have struggled for decades to try to continue to provide reliable, accountable news despite censorship and disinformation.
Dmitry Muratov co-founded the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta in 1993 and has been its editor-in-chief since 1995. In that time, six of the paper’s journalists have been killed, like Anna Politkovskaja who had written investigative journalism on the war in Chechnya. Muratov has continued to defend uncensored, independent reporting.
Maria Ressa, an investigative journalist, ran CNN bureaus in the Philippine capital Manila and the Indonesian one Jakarta for many years, before co-founding Rappler in 2012, a digital media company and online news site in the Philippines.
The site aims to publish truthful reporting on all topics, but has attracted the ire of President Rodrigo Dutertre, who has been in power since 2016. The site has not shied away from reporting on corruption in different parts of Filipino society, and Dutertre’s anti-drug campaign which has become a bloodbath: the United Nations Human Rights Commissioner estimates that at least 8,600 people have died in the campaign since 2016. Human rights groups put the figures much higher. Both Rappler and Ressa as CEO have been targeted by repeated legal cases and social-media harassment.
A 2020 documentary, A Thousand Cuts, described Ressa’s campaign against the spread of disinformation by social media, which she refers to as democracy’s “death by a thousand cuts.”
The Nobel Committee statement on awarding the prize described Ms Ressa and Mr Muratov as representatives of all journalists standing up for freedom of expression, “in a world in which democracy and freedom of the press face increasingly adverse conditions.” The Committee asserted, “Free, independent and fact-based journalism serves to protect against abuse of power, lies and war propaganda.”
Niklas Elmehed © Nobel Prize Outreach.