Nobel Peace Prize 2021: Last week, the Nobel Prize for Peace 2021 was awarded to two journalists for running independent news organisations in their respective countries even in the face of threat of detention and death. The Nobel Peace Prize 2021 has been awarded to Philippines’ Maria Ressa and Russia’s Dmitry Muratov for their “courageous fight” to uphold the freedom of expression. According to a report in IE, the Nobel Committee said that the two recipients were the face of all journalists who stood by the ideals of journalism at a time when democracy as well as freedom of press were increasingly facing adverse conditions.
The committee also said that giving these awards to the journalists was also a way to highlight the importance of upholding, protecting as well as defending freedom of expression and freedom of information. The report further cited Reporters Without Borders (RSF) secretary general Christophe Deloire as saying that the Prize was a powerful message in the current times when spread of hate speech and fake news are undermining democracies.
Maria Ressa of Philippines is an investigative journalist and in 2012, she co-founded Rappler to serve as a digital media platform for investigative journalism. The platform is still headed by Ressa. While giving her the award, the Nobel Committee made note of her focus on the controversial and murderous anti-drug campaign carried out during incumbent President Rodrigo Duterte’s regime. The statement said that the campaign led to so many deaths that it started to resemble a war against the very people of the country. Ressa and Rappler also looked at how social media was being used in the country to spread fake news and to manipulate public discourse as well as a means to harass opponents.
Philippines had been ranked at 138 out of 180 countries in RSF’s World Press Freedom Index 2021, and the organisation had cited President Duterte’s statement from 2016 when he said that even a journalist would not be exempted from assassination if they had done something wrong.
Before she started Rappler, Ressa worked for over 20 years with CNN during which time she investigated many things, including terrorist networks, and then also wrote for the Wall Street Journal.
Meanwhile, Dmitry Muratov has been defending freedom of speech in Russia for decades, according to the Nobel Committee, even as conditions are becoming increasingly challenging. During the administration of incumbent President Vladimir Putin, the country was ranked 150 in the World Press Freedom Index this year. Muratov used to work for popular daily Komsomolskaya Pravda, but then, after leaving it, he started Novaja Gazeta with about 50 of his colleagues in 1993. He is one of the founders of the newspaper, and has been serving as its editor-in-chief since 1995. Since the newspaper began operating, six of Muratov’s colleagues have been killed, and the team has also faced threats, harassment and violence from the people opposing it. Giving him the award, the Nobel Committee noted that despite facing threats and witnessing killings of his colleagues, Muratov did not abandon the independent policy of the newspaper.