This year, the Nobel Peace Prize Committee has chosen to bring into the limelight and acknowledge the work, courage and resilience of two journalists: Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov. The motivation reads “for their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace.”
In the Philippines, the job of the journalist is one of the most dangerous. According to the World Press Freedom Index, the country is at the 136th position over 180 when it comes to press freedom.
Born on October 2nd, 1963, in Manila, Maria Ressa has made her life a manifesto of truth. She has been the main voice advocating against the government of Rodrigo Duterte, unveiling the corruption within the administration of the country.
Ressa has been one of the founders of the online Filipino newspaper Rappler, which “through cutting-edge stories, conversations, and collaboration, aims to speak truth to power and build communities of action for a better world”.1 Rappler has been telling the story of the rise in power of Duterte, and for this reason has been heavily persecuted by the Filipino justice system.
For her investigation and open opposition to the Duterte government, Ressa herself has been arrested twice and detained once. Not only that: from 2018 to 2019, she has been put on trial eleven times, and has had to pay a bail 8 times in 3 months in the same period. In 2020 she was sentenced for defamation via internet: released on bail, she is still at risk of up to 6 years in prison.
In 2018, Maria Ressa was included by Time among the Guardians in the War on Truth. With last Friday’s acknowledgement by the Nobel Academy, however, she can now count on a global support in her fight for truth.
The story of Dmitry Muratov starts in another tormented country when it comes to freedom of speech and of press: Russia. While virtually everyone has heard about the Navalny case, it is possible that only few remember the death of Anna Politkovskaja, the Russian reporter that was killed in 2006 days before she was about to release an article on the tortures brought about by the Chechen security forces. For her job as a reporter in Chechnya, Politkovskaja to Muratov, the founder and chief editor of Novaya Gazeta.
Founded in 1993 by about 45 journalists (the former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev—the second Russian ever to receive the Nobel Peace Prize—was an early supporter, and still owns a small stake in the enterprise), Novaya Gazeta has remained the only independent Russian periodical in the country and the only one that keeps shedding a light on the abuse of power, the “troll factories”, the illegal arrests, the corruption, the electoral frauds and brutality of the Kremlin under Vladimir Putin. Under his watch as Chief Editor of Novaya Gazeta, Muratov has had to witness the death of 6 of his journalists, murdered by the very power they were investigating. And this is why, struck by visible emotion, upon receiving the news of the Nobel Prize reception, Muratov immediately declared that “This prize is for them—it’s just that the Nobel Prize cannot be awarded posthumously”.
Awarding brave journalism: a prize for all the silenced voices
The Nobel Prize Committee, in the motivations for this year award, claimed that “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”. This is why awarding journalism serves as a push for all the young journalists in the world to be brave, to always remember that the value of journalism is in searching truth. It is also a way to acknowledge the existence of all the voices that have been silenced by the power, as Muratov reminded. Ultimately it is a reminder that no one should be afraid to stand up and challenge the power itself because, as Maria Ressa has reminded the world, “truth doesn’t exist without journalists”