The Norwegian Nobel Committee has formally recognized the role that independent and professional journalism plays in warding off war and conflict. In specifically honouring two of the world’s bravest journalists on Friday, the Oslo-based committee stressed the importance that fact-based freedom of expression has for peace.
This year’s Nobel Peace Prize will thus be shared by Maria Ressa, editor-in-chief of the online news service Rappler in the Philippines, and Dmitry Muratov, editor-in-chief of the Russia’s independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta. The committee referred to them as “fearless” and specifically cited “their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression,” calling that in itself “a precondition for democracy and lasting peace.”
Ressa and Muratov were singled out for their dedication and bravery over the years, as they’ve sought accountability in authoritarian, even murderous, regimes in the Philippines and Russia. The Nobel Committee stressed, however, that Ressa and Muratov are also “representatives of all journalists” who work daily to factually inform the public and stand up for democracy and freedom of the press under “increasingly adverse conditions.” Committee leader Berit Reiss-Andersen also referred to the organizations Reporters Without Borders and The Committee to Protect Journalists during Friday’s prize announcement, both of which have ranked high on lists of likely candidates for a Nobel Peace Prize.
Ressa was specifically cited for exposing “abuse of power, use of violence and growing authoritarianism in her native country, the Philippines.” Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) quickly aired footage from a shocking interview she conducted with the Philippines highly controversial president Rodrigo Duterte, who admitted on air that he had committed murder himself and warned that “it’s gonna get bloody” as he proceeds with what the Nobel Committee called “his murderous anti-drug campaign.” Duterte openly hailed dictatorship and even threatened to kill her, warning her in obscene terms not to challenge him. Ressa, who remained calm and professional throughout the interview, was also lauded by the Nobel Committee for documenting “how social media is being used to spread face news, harass opponents and manipulate public discourse.”
Muratov, meanwhile, was hailed for decades of defending freedom of speech in Russia as one of the founders of Novaja Gazeta in 1993. It’s known for constantly questioning authority in Russia, with the Nobel Committee noting how the newspaper’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.” In publishing “critical articles on subjects ranging from corruption, police violence, unlawful arrests, electoral fraud and ‘troll factories’ to the use of Russian military forces both within and outside Russia,” the committee further noted that its journalists have been subjected to harassment, threats, violence and murder. Six of its journalists have been killed including Anna Politkovskaja, after she’d written what the committee called “revealing articles on the war in Chechnya.” Through it all, Muratov “has refused to abandon the newspaper’s independent policy.”
‘Anchored’ in Afred Nobel’s will
Nobel Committee leader Reiss-Andersen, stressed at the Peace Prize press conference Friday that “free, independent and fact-based journalism serves to protect against abuse of power, lies and war propaganda.” It also stressed that the public’s right to freedom of information are “crucial” for democracy and “to protect against war and conflict.”
“The award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov is intended to underscore the importance of protecting and defending these fundamental rights,” Reiss-Andersen claimed on behalf of the committee.
After years of criticism that the committee allegedly has strayed from the terms of prize benefactor Alfred Nobel’s will, Reiss-Andersen also claimed that freedom of expression and freedom of the press help promote fraternity between nations, disarmament and “a better world to succeed in our time.” She claimed this year’s prize was therefore “firmly anchored in the provisions of Alfred Nobel’s will.”