By: Aditi Roy
The 2021 Nobel peace prize was awarded to journalists Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov. The award was a landmark victory for journalism; this was the first time a journalist had won the award since 1935.
Christophe Deloire, Director general of Reporters Without Borders, encapsulated the significance of this award perfectly by stating, "this is an extraordinary tribute to journalism and an excellent tribute to the journalists who take risks everywhere around the world." Though the new Nobel laureates hail from different regions - Ressa from the Philippines and Muratov from Russia - they have courageously fought for the freedom of speech, facing the onslaught of the respective governments and risking their own life. To say they deserve the recognition and tributes that came their way is a severe understatement.
To understand the impact both these journalists have made in free and fearless reporting, we must explore the challenges they encountered.
Maria Ressa's victory marked a historic day as she is the first Philipino to receive this prestigious Nobel prize in any category. She has been actively working as a journalist for over thirty years. Ressa initially worked for CNN as its bureau chief in Manila. In 2012 she co-founded Rappler, a digital media company dedicated to truthful investigative journalism within the Philippines. The news website actively called out the inhuman actions of the powerful President Rodrigo Duterte. Most notably, Maria Ressa used her platform to shed light on the deadly drug war, which resulted in thousands of killings, mainly targeting individuals from the lower socioeconomic strata. Not unexpectedly, Ressa's criticism of President Rodrigo Duterte's regime came at the cost of her freedom and safety. The Philippino government has issued at least ten arrest warrants against her within the last year. In addition, the Securities and Exchange Commission of the Philippines tried to revoke Rappler's license. The SEC's basis for this closure is that the firm had foreign investors that they suspect controlled the news agency. President Rodrigo Duterte stated that he believed the company is "fully owned by Americans" and accused it of spreading "fake news." However, President Duterte maintains a clear stance that he had no contribution to the SEC's sudden decision despite the evident presence of motive.
The news of Maria Ressa's victory was an exciting and rewarding moment for the Rappler team. That, however, doesn't diminish the threat of the seven court cases that loom large over the Rappler and Ressa herself.
Dmitry Muratov serves as the editor-in-chief of Novaya Gazeta, a news firm that was founded in 1993. The publication garnered the support of the former president of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev. Gorbachev himself was the recipient of the Nobel Peace prize in 1990 for his significant role in shaping and progressing East-West relations. Gorbachev used some of his prize money to invest in the newspaper as he believed in their intent to produce unbiased news.
Novaya Gazeta has been dubbed as "the only truly critical newspaper with national influence in Russia today" by the Committee to Protect Journalists. The publication earned this title as they continue to fight for the truth and fearlessly critique the government for its actions and inactions.
The threat to journalists in Russia who do not promote government propaganda is evident from the killing of six journalists from the Novaya Gazeta. Muratov dedicated the award to his six fearless colleagues in Novaya Gazeta who lost their lives for reporting such social crimes as gubernatorial corruption, misuse of public funds, mistreatment of the LGBTQ+ community in Chechnya, and the notorious 'Three Whales scandal.' Those who fell victim to the assassins were Igor Domnikov, Yuri Shchekochikhin, Anna Politkovskaya, Stas Markelov, Anastasia Baburova, and Natasha Estemirova. Despite coping with the loss of these colleagues and being aware of the threat to his own safety, Dmitry Muratov continued on this mission to provide authentic news. He has been very critical of President Vladamir Putin, exposing the blatant corruption, violent police force, and electoral fraud under his office.
The bold and uncensored content of Novaya Gazeta continues to subject the journalists to constant attacks. In 2018 a funeral wreath and a decapitated sheepshead was sent to their office. Unfazed by the threats, Novaya Gazeta still courageously puts out groundbreaking content.
Maria's and Dmitry's pursuit of excellence in journalism continues as they tackle the backlash from their governments. Freedom of speech is a precondition for good governance and a thriving democracy.
Acknowledging such a brave journalist is one step forward in making our violence-ridden planet safer for the generations to come.
“Nobel Peace Prize: Journalists Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov Share Award.” BBC News, BBC, 8 Oct. 2021, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-58841973.
cbcnews. “Journalists from Philippines, Russia Win Nobel Peace Prize.” YouTube, YouTube, 8 Oct. 2021, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l9Z7CYjkhrY.
CBCTheNational. “Nobel Peace Prize Awarded to Journalists Dmitry Muratov and Maria Ressa.” YouTube, YouTube, 9 Oct. 2021, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=STkx0ziqSRg.
Al Jazeera. “Nobel Peace Prize: Kremlin Lauds 'Brave' Journalist Muratov.” Media News | Al Jazeera, Al Jazeera, 8 Oct. 2021, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/10/8/nobel-peace-prize-kremlin-russia-journalism-muratov.
bbcnews. “Nobel Peace Prize for Journalists in Russia and Philippines - BBC News.” YouTube, YouTube, 8 Oct. 2021, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H1hpX8uiRks%3FHD.
“Christophe Deloire: Reporters without Borders.” RSF, 11 Sept. 2018, https://rsf.org/en/christophe-deloire.
“Maria Ressa: AXA.” AXA.com, https://www.axa.com/en/about-us/profile/maria-ressa.
“Journalist Maria Ressa '86 Awarded The Nobel Peace Prize | Princeton Alumni.” Princeton University, The Trustees of Princeton University, https://alumni.princeton.edu/stories/maria-ressa-nobel-peace-prize#:~:text=Ressa%20has%20been%20a%20journalist,news%20organizations%20in%20the%20Philippines.
Johnson, Howard. “Why Rappler Is Raising Philippine Press Freedom Fears.” BBC News, BBC, 17 Jan. 2018, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-42713897.
Wee, Sui-lee. “Philippines' Nobel Prize Newsroom Is Overjoyed but under Siege.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 9 Oct. 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/10/09/world/asia/rappler-philippines-nobel-peace-prize.html.
Jaggi, Harleen Kaur. “Dmitry Muratov Biography, Age, Russian Journalist, Background, Nobel Peace Prize, Nationality, Photo, and News.” Jagrantv, Jagran TV, 8 Oct. 2021, https://www.jagrantv.com/en-show/dmitry-muratov-biography-age-russian-journalist-background-nobel-peace-prize-nationality-photo-and-news-rc1024125.
Rfe/rl. “Nobel Peace Prize Awarded to Novaya Gazeta Editor, Filipino-American Journalist.” RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty, Nobel Peace Prize Awarded To Novaya Gazeta Editor, Filipino-American Journalist, 8 Oct. 2021, https://www.rferl.org/a/nobel-peace-prize-muratov-novaya-gazeta/31499206.html.
“The Nobel Peace Prize 1990.” NobelPrize.org, https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/peace/1990/press-release/.
The Moscow Times. “Novaya Gazeta Investigations under Nobel Peace Prize Winner Muratov.” The Moscow Times, The Moscow Times, 10 Oct. 2021, https://www.themoscowtimes.com/2021/10/08/novaya-gazeta-investigations-under-nobel-peace-prize-winner-muratov-a75252.
France 24. “Muratov and Novaya Gazeta: Russia's Independent Media Stalwarts.” France 24, France 24, 8 Oct. 2021, https://www.france24.com/en/live-news/20211008-muratov-and-novaya-gazeta-russia-s-independent-media-stalwarts.
Person, and Tom Balmforth Andrew Osborn. “Russian Editor Muratov Dedicates Nobel Prize to Staff Killed for Their Work.” Reuters, Thomson Reuters, 8 Oct. 2021, https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/russian-editor-muratov-dedicates-nobel-prize-staff-murdered-their-work-2021-10-08/.
“Dmitry Muratov: The Nobel Winner Shining Light on Russia Journalist Murders.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 8 Oct. 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/oct/08/my-nobel-peace-prize-belongs-to-russias-murdered-journalists-says-dmitry-muratov.
Hodge, Nathan. “Nobel Winner Dmitry Muratov's Newspaper Has Long Been a Thorn in Putin's Side.” CNN, Cable News Network, 8 Oct. 2021, https://www.cnn.com/2021/10/08/media/dmitry-muratov-nobel-peace-prize/index.html.
Perrigo, Billy. “Who Is Dmitry Muratov, Nobel Peace Prize Winner?” Time, Time, 8 Oct. 2021, https://time.com/6105332/dmitry-muratov-nobel-peace-prize/.
“How Nobel Laureate Dmitry Muratov Built Russia's 'Bravest' Newspaper.” The Wire, https://thewire.in/world/how-nobel-laureate-dmitry-muratov-built-russias-bravest-newspaper.