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Filipino journalist, Maria Ressa, wins Nobel Peace Prize for defense of press freedom

As a journalist, “Ressa has shown herself to be a fearless defender of freedom of expression”

Filipino journalist Maria Ressa has been named, with Dmitry Muratov of Russia, as winner of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize for “efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace.”

The announcement for the award was made on Friday, October 8, by the Norwegian Nobel Committee in Oslo, Norway.

Ressa and Muratov are given the peace prize for their “courageous fight for freedom of expression in the Philippines and Russia,” read a statement from the award-giving body.

It said that both journalists “are 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.”

“Ressa uses freedom of expression to expose abuse of power, use of violence and growing authoritarianism in her native country,” read the statement.

Ressa, 58, told Norwegian TV2 she was “shocked” and “emotional” to receive the honor, which she said would give her and her colleagues “tremendous energy to continue the fight.”

Ressa is currently on bail pending an appeal against a conviction last year in a cyber libel case, for which she faces up to six years in prison.

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In 2012, Ressa co-founded Rappler, a digital media company for investigative journalism, which she still heads.

As a journalist and Rappler’s CEO, “Ressa has shown herself to be a fearless defender of freedom of expression” while Rappler was mentioned as having “focused critical attention” on the “controversial, murderous anti-drug campaign” of the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.

“The number of deaths is so high that the campaign resembles a war waged against the country’s own population,” said the statement posted on the Nobel Prize Facebook page.

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

The award-giving body said “free, independent and fact-based journalism serves to protect against abuse of power, lies and war propaganda.”

Maria Ressa is interviewed by the media as she leaves a court in the city of Pasig in the Philippine capital Manila after her arraignment for a tax case filed against her by the Justice department in July 2020. (Photo by Jire Carreon)

“The Norwegian Nobel Committee is convinced that freedom of expression and freedom of information help to ensure an informed public,” it said, adding that these rights are “crucial prerequisites for democracy and protect against war and conflict.”

“The award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov is intended to underscore the importance of protecting and defending these fundamental rights,” said the Nobel committee.

“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,” it said.

It said that this year’s award of the Nobel Peace Prize “is therefore firmly anchored in the provisions of Alfred Nobel’s will.”

Media watchdogs had been tipped as contenders for the prestigious prize ahead of Friday’s announcement.

Last year, the honor went to the UN’s humanitarian agency fighting famine, the World Food Programme (WFP).

The award’s image has been hit hard over the past years as one of its previous laureates, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, became embroiled in a war.

Another, Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi, was accused of defending the massacre of members of the Rohingya minority.

The prize — consisting of a diploma, a gold medal and a cheque for 10 million kronor (980,000 euros, US$1.1 million) — is traditionally awarded on December 10, the anniversary of the 1896 death of prize creator Alfred Nobel.

The Peace Prize is the only Nobel to be awarded in the Norwegian capital. – with additional report from Agence France Presse

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