Maria Ressa, one of two recipients and the first Filipina to win the Nobel Peace Prize, offered the triumph to “all journalists around the world.”
In a country ranked one of the world’s most dangerous in the world for media workers, Ressa said she hopes it would serve as a shield for herself and other journalists in the Philippines against physical attacks and online threats.
“This ‘us against them’ was never the creation of the journalists, it was the creation of the people in power who wanted to use a type of leadership that divides a society,” she said.
The upcoming national elections, Ressa continued, is an “existential moment” for the nation. “This is going to be a battle for facts.”
The Malacañang Palace, belated in its congratulations to Ressa, came with what the awardee described as a “hit.”
Rappler, the news outfit which she heads, has been critically covering the Duterte administration and its controversial drug war. Ressa has long been a target of President Rodrigo Duterte and has been hounded with criminal charges (among them tax evasion and multiple cyber libel cases) and abusive messages online.
“It is a victory for a Filipina and we are very happy for that. Of course it is true there are individuals who feel Maria Ressa still has to clear her name before the courts,” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque had said.
“Thanks, but no thanks,” Ressa responded. “Hand-in-hand with that [praise] was this reminder—which is a lie—that the cyberlibel complaint is filed by an individual, and what the government repeatedly refuses to say is that it takes a government to actually file a criminal case.”
Ressa, together with fellow Russian journalist awardee Dmitry Muratov, were congratulated by world leaders—including United States president Joe Biden—as well as various diplomatic groups, such as the US, British, French, German, Austrian and Danish embassies.
United Nations secretary-general António Guterres, in his congratulatory message to the pair, said that their honor came at a time of growing “anti-media rhetoric and attacks” against the media. “Women journalists are often subjected to particular abuse,” he noted.
According to Nobel Committee chair Berit-Reiss Andersen, Ressa and Muratov, were granted the award “for their courageous fight for freedom of expression in the Philippines and Russia”, as well as “for their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace.”
Muratov is the founder of independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta, that had a “fundamentally critical attitude toward power”, said the Committee. The journalist had also defended freedom of speech in his own country, despite the increasingly challenging conditions.
Ressa’s Rappler has been called by Duterte a “fake news outlet” and is one among several news outfits in the Philippines that have reported on the President’s regime. Among them are the Philippine Daily Inquirer, and ABSCBN network, which lost its franchise last year.
Due to Rappler’s publication of images of killings amid the drug war, the International Criminal Court had launched a full investigation into possible crimes against humanity.
Photo: The Princeton University