Highlights

Nobel Peace Prize awarded to journalists Ressa and Muratov

"Free, independent and fact-based journalism serves to protect against abuse of power, lies and war propaganda"

Journalists Maria Ressa of the Philippines and Dmitry Muratov of Russia won the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for their fight for freedom of expression in countries where reporters have faced persistent attacks, harassment and even murder.

Ressa and Muratov were honored for their “courageous” work but also were considered “representatives of all journalists who stand up for this ideal in a world in which democracy and freedom of the press face increasingly adverse conditions,” said Berit Reiss-Andersen, chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee.

Ressa in 2012 co-founded Rappler, a news website that has focused critical attention on President Rodrigo Duterte’s “controversial, murderous anti-drug campaign” in the Philippines, the committee said.

She and Rappler “have also documented how social media is being used to spread fake news, harass opponents and manipulate public discourse.”

Dangers of misinformation cited

Some critics questioned if the award respected Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel’s will and its original purpose to prevent war, but Reiss-Andersen said freedom of expression was essential to peace.

“Free, independent and fact-based journalism serves to protect against abuse of power, lies and war propaganda,” she said. “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.”

She also cited the danger of misinformation and attacks on journalists by leaders denouncing them as purveyors of “fake news.”

“Conveying fake news and information that is propaganda and untrue is also a violation of freedom of expression, and all freedom of expression has its limitations. That is also a very important factor in this debate,” she said.

Media rights group Reporters Without Borders celebrated the announcement, expressing “joy and urgency.”

Director Christophe Deloire called it “an extraordinary tribute to journalism, an excellent tribute to all journalists who take risks everywhere around the world to defend the right to information.”

“Journalism is in danger, journalism is weakened, journalism is threatened. Democracies are weakened by disinformation, by rumours, by hate speech,” said Deloire, whose group has worked with Ressa and Muratov to defend defend journalism in their countries and comes under regular criticism from authoritarian governments.

Committee asked about previous winner

After the announcement, the Nobel committee itself was put on the spot by a reporter who asked about its decision to award the 2019 peace prize to Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who has since become entangled in a domestic conflict with the powerful Tigray region.

“I will not comment on other Nobel laureates and other issues than we have on the table today, but I can mention that the situation for freedom of press in Ethiopia is very far from ideal and is facing severe restrictions,” Reiss-Andersen said.

The Nobel Committee awarded prizes for medicine, physics, chemistry and literature earlier this week. Still to come Monday is the prize for outstanding work in the field of economics.

CBC.ca

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