Wednesday, 27 Oct 2021

Nobel Peace Prize: Who are this year’s winners, Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov?

The Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to two journalists who have championed press freedom against authoritarian regimes.

But who are Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov?

Maria Ressa

Born in Manila, Maria Ressa is one of the most highly regarded journalists in the Philippines.

A veteran correspondent, she has reported on corruption, exposed an online “troll army” pushing out fake news and shone a light on Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte’s controversial drugs war.

In 2012, she co-founded the online news platform, Rappler, work which would earn her plaudits around the world but also bring her head to head with the authorities.

Having reported on Mr Duterte for much of his career, it was Ms Ressa’s work after the 2016 election into extrajudicial killings and human rights abuses during the president’s so-called war on drugs and an exposé into an online bot army pushing out fake news around his presidency which increased the pressure on her and Rappler.

As well as Rappler being accused of peddling “fake news”, it’s reported its staff and offices have faced at least a dozen government investigations and court cases.

In 2020, Ms Ressa was found guilty of “cyber libel” charges and is currently facing six years in prison, a ruling she is appealing.

Named Time magazine “Person of the Year” in 2018 for fighting media intimidation, her plight has raised international concern about the harassment of journalists in the Philippines.

When she got the call today from the Norwegian Nobel Committee she was taking part in an online panel about press freedom.

Afterwards, she told online viewers: “This is for all of us, I am in shock…I think it’s a recognition of how tough it is.”

Maria Ressa: the journalist who took on a president and won the Nobel Peace Prize.

Dmitry Muratov

Dmitry Muratov is the third Russian to win the Nobel Peace Prize, alongside former Soviet Union president Mikhail Gorbachev and the Soviet dissident and human rights activist, Andrei Sakharov.

As editor-in-chief of Russia’s most famous independent newspaper, Novaya Gazeta, he has championed freedom of expression leading a team of fearless reporters who’ve continued to shed light on corruption and human rights abuses, despite continual harassment and tragically too, the murder of colleagues.

His prize comes one day after the 15th anniversary of the killing of Novaya Gazeta’s Anna Politkovskaya who had continually shone a light on human rights abuses in Chechnya.

No one has been held accountable for her murder and yesterday marked the expiration of the statute of limitations on that crime.

Novaya Gazeta is owned in part by the Russian businessman Alexander Lebedev and former president Mikhail Gorbachev.

It is one of the few independent outlets still to have avoided being labelled a foreign agent, perhaps because of its prestigious establishment links at a time when almost all smaller investigative outlets are experiencing extreme pressure at the hands of Russian authorities.

The Kremlin today congratulated Mr Muratov, calling him a “talented, courageous journalist”.

They are most likely pleased the prize was not awarded to President Vladimir Putin’s arch-nemesis, Alexei Navalny, whose name was touted as a possible winner ahead of the announcement.

Despite their accolades though, as the Nobel committee recognised, Mr Muratov has refused to compromise his journalistic ethics or independence at Novaya Gazeta as his team continues to hold the Russian state to account.

His award is a resounding voice of support for journalism at a time when Russian authorities are doing their very best to crush independent, investigative reporting and freedom of speech.

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