Oslo: The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided to award the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize to Maria Ressa (Philippines) and Dmitry Muratov (Russia) for their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace.
The winners were announced on Friday by Berit Reiss-Andersen, chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee.
The former CNN bureau chief set up news website Rappler in 2012, bringing together multimedia reporting and social media to offer an edgy take on Philippine current events and a critical eye on the government of President Rodrigo Duterte.
As CNN’s former bureau chief in Manila and Jakarta, Ressa specialised in terrorism where she tracked the links between global networks like Al Qaida and militants in Southeast Asia.
The Princeton graduate, who holds both American and Philippine citizenship, later returned to the Philippines to serve as news chief at the nation’s top broadcaster ABS-CBN.
Ressa and Rappler have faced multiple criminal charges and investigations after publishing stories critical of the firebrand leader and his bloody drug war.
She had already been named a Time Person of the Year in 2018 for her work on press freedom, but the arrests further grew her international profile and drew more attention to her case.
Rappler was among the domestic and foreign outlets that published shocking images of the killings and questioned its legal basis.
It was an entirely new set of threats for Ressa, who was a veteran of conflict zones before co-founding Rappler.
“I began as a reporter in 1986 and I have worked in so many countries around the world, I have been shot at and threatened but never this kind of death by a thousand cuts,” Ressa said.In June 2020, she was convicted of cyber libel charges initiated by a businessman who believes he’d been defamed by a report on his alleged links to drug smuggling.
“The Nobel Peace prize committee realized that a world without facts means a world without truth and trust,” she said on Youtube after the announcement. “If you don’t have any of these things, you certainly can’t conquer coronavirus, you can’t conquer climate change.”
Ressa was included in Bloomberg’s 50 Most Influential ranking in 2020 and had been in similar lists by Time Magazine.
Ressa, 58, is the first winner of a Nobel prize in any field from the Philippines. Rappler, which she co-founded in 2012, has grown prominent through investigative reporting, including into large scale killings during a police campaign against drugs.
"Free, independent and fact-based journalism serves to protect against abuse of power, lies and war propaganda,'' said Reiss-Andersen.
Prize is first to journalists since 1935
"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.''
The prize is the first Nobel Peace Prize for journalists since the German Carl von Ossietzky won it in 1935 for revealing his country’s secret post-war rearmament programme.
Ressa in 2012 co-founded Rappler, a news website that has focused "critical attention on the (President Rodrigo) Duterte regime's controversial, murderous anti-drug campaign,'' the Nobel committee said.
She and Rappler "have also documented how social media is being used to spread fake news, harass opponents and manipulate public discourse.''
Muratov was one of the founders of the independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta in 1993.
"Novaya Gazeta is the most independent newspaper in Russia today, with a fundamentally critical attitude towards power,'' the Nobel committee said.
"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,'' it added.
Muratov, 59, is the first Russian to win the peace prize since Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1990. Gorbachev himself has long been associated with Novaya Gazeta, having contributed some of his Nobel prize money to help set up the paper in the early post-Soviet days when Russians anticipated new freedoms.
From the beginning, Novaya Gazeta’s mission was to conduct large-scale investigations into human rights issues, corruption and abuse of power.
Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Soviet leader and the last Russian winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, donated some of his own money from the award to help fund equipment and salaries for the paper.
Some of the journalists who worked for the paper were among the highest profile critics of President Vladimir Putin to have been killed in the last two decades, including reporter Politkovskaya and rights activist Estemirova, who both infuriated the Kremlin with dispatches from Chechnya.
Politkovskaya was gunned down in her apartment stairwell in 2006 on Putin’s birthday. Estemirova was abducted from her home in the Chechen capital Grozny and murdered in 2009.
Muratov edited the newspaper for more than two decades between 1995 and 2017 when he stepped down, citing the exacting demands of the job. He returned in 2019 at the behest of the staff who voted for him to resume his duties.
The Kremlin congratulated Muratov on his prize.
“He persistently works in accordance with his own ideals, he is devoted to them, he is talented,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov. “He is brave.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov congratulated Muratov on winning the prize, hailing him as a "talented and brave'' person.
"We can congratulate Dmitry Muratov _ he has consistently worked in accordance with his ideals, he has adhered to his ideals, he's talented and brave. It's a high appraisal and we congratulate him,'' Peskov said in a conference call with reporters after the prize was announced.
Last year's prize went to the World Food Program, which was established in 1961 at the behest of US President Dwight Eisenhower to fight hunger around the globe. The Rome-based UN agency was lauded for seeking to end starvation as "a weapon of war and conflict.''
The prestigious award is accompanied by a gold medal and 10 million Swedish kronor (over $1.14 million). The prize money comes from a bequest left by the prize's creator, Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel, who died in 1895.
2019: Abiy Ahmed (Ethiopia)
2018: Denis Mukwege (DR Congo) and Nadia Murad (Iraq)
2017: International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN)
2016: Juan Manuel Santos (Colombia)
2015: The National Dialogue Quartet (Tunisia)
2014: Kailash Satyarthi (India) and Malala Yousafzai (Pakistan)
2013: The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)
2012: The European Union (EU)
2011: Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Leymah Gbowee (Liberia), Tawakkul Karman (Yemen)
2010: Liu Xiaobo (China)
2009: Barack Obama (US)
2008: Martti Ahtisaari (Finland)
2007: Al Gore (US) and the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
2006: Muhammad Yunus (Bangladesh) and the Grameen Bank
2005: International Atomic Energy Agency and Mohamed ElBaradei (Egypt)
2004: Wangari Maathai (Kenya)
2003: Shirin Ebadi (Iran)
2002: Jimmy Carter (US)
2001: Kofi Annan (Ghana) and the United Nations
2000: Kim Dae-jung (South Korea)
On Monday, the Nobel Committee awarded the prize in physiology or medicine to Americans David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian for their discoveries into how the human body perceives temperature and touch.
The Nobel Prize in physics was awarded Tuesday to three scientists whose work found order in seeming disorder, helping to explain and predict complex forces of nature, including expanding our understanding of climate change.
Benjamin List and David W.C. MacMillan were named as laureates of the Nobel Prize for chemistry Wednesday for finding an easier and environmentally cleaner way to build molecules that can be used to make compounds, including medicines and pesticides.
The Nobel Prize for literature was awarded Thursday to U.K.-based Tanzanian writer Abdulrazak Gurnah, who was recognized for his ``uncompromising and compassionate penetration of the effects of colonialism and the fate of the refugee."
Still to come Monday is the prize for outstanding work in the field economics.