The Nobel Peace Prize recognizes two threatened journalists

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Oslo (AFP) – Philippine journalist Maria Ressa faces jail, Russian Dimitri Muratov has already buried several colleagues, but on Friday they will collect the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo for their fight “in favor of press freedom.”

Maria Ressa, co-founder of the website information page Rappler, and Dimitri Muratov, editor-in-chief of the independent newspaper Novaia Gazeta, were awarded the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize in early October.

“A healthy society and democracy depend on reliable information”, the chairman of the Norwegian Nobel committee, Berit Reiss-Andersen, reaffirmed on Thursday, attacking propaganda, disinformation and “fake news” (false news).

But the free and independent press remains under threat around the world.

“For now, press freedom is under threat,” said Ressa when asked if this award would change the situation in his country, the Philippines, ranked 138 on the list of press freedom made by Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

“It’s like we have a sword of Damocles suspended over our heads,” Ressa said. “Today in the Philippines, the laws exist … but you report difficult subjects at your own risk.”

Ressa cited the case of his compatriot Jess Malabanan, a correspondent for the Manila Standard newspaper, who was killed by a gunshot to the head on Wednesday. This journalist, who was also a contributor to the Reuters agency, worked on the issue of the war on drugs.

For RSF, “if the hypothesis of death linked to his work were confirmed,” Malabanan would be the 16th Philippine journalist assassinated since Rodrigo Duterte became president in 2016.

Pending the resolution of the seven judicial processes pending in his country, Ressa had to request permission from four courts in his country to be able to travel to Norway.

Dimitri Muratov attends the press in front of the headquarters of the newspaper Novaya Gazeta, after learning of the award of the Nobel Peace Prize, on October 8, 2021 in Moscow Dimitar Dilkoff AFP

Foreign agent?

Dimitri Muratov, 60, runs one of the few outlets that are still independent in the restrictive Russian media landscape.

Novaia Gazeta is especially known for her investigations into corruption and human rights violations in Chechnya. Since the 1990s, six collaborators of the outlet have been assassinated, including the famous journalist Anna Politkovskaya in 2006.

“If we have to become foreign agents to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, we will,” he ironically referred to the qualifier with which critical media of the Kremlin are accused in Russia.

The label of “foreign agent”, which seeks to discredit the media that receive “foreign funding” and carry “a political activity”, obliges information groups to state this status in all their publications.

Russian President Vladimir Putin warned that the Nobel Prize was not a “shield” against this status. Russia is ranked 150th in the RSF rankings.

Philippine journalist Maria Ressa speaks to the media upon her arrival at the headquarters of the National Bureau of Investigation after being arrested in Manila on February 13, 2019.
Philippine journalist Maria Ressa speaks to the media upon her arrival at the headquarters of the National Bureau of Investigation after being arrested in Manila on February 13, 2019. Ted Aljibe AFP / Archives

“Reporting should not continue to cost your life”

As of December 1, 1,636 journalists died in the last 20 years in the world, 46 in 2021, according to RSF data.

“Reporting should not continue to cost your life,” insisted RSF general secretary Christophe Deloire during the presentation of the report this week.

In addition, there have never been so many journalists detained in the world: 293, denounced on Thursday the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), based in the United States.

Maria Ressa and Dimitri Muratov will receive the Nobel Peace Prize, an award consisting of a diploma, a gold medal and a check for 10 million Swedish crowns (plus 1 million dollars), at a ceremony at Oslo City Hall , from 12h00 GMT.

The rest of the Nobel prizes, usually awarded in Stockholm (Sweden), had to be delivered by hand in the country of residence of the covid-19 winners.

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The Nobel Peace Prize recognizes two threatened journalists