Journalists Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov, who braved the wrath of the leaders of the Philippines and Russia to expose corruption and misrule, won the Nobel Peace Prize yesterday in an endorsement of free speech under fire worldwide.
he two were awarded “for their courageous fight for freedom of expression” in their countries, chairwoman Berit Reiss-Andersen of the Norwegian Nobel Committee told a news conference.
“They 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,” she added.
Mr Muratov dedicated his award to six contributors to his Novaya Gazeta newspaper who had been murdered for their work exposing human rights violations and corruption.
“Igor Domnikov, Yuri Shchekochikhin, Anna Politkovskaya, Stas Markelov, Anastasia Baburova, Natasha Estemirova – these are the people who have today won the Nobel Prize,” Mr Muratov said, reciting the names of slain reporters and activists.
In an interview with Reuters in Manila, Ms Ressa said: “It’s never been as hard to be journalist as it is today.”
The 35-year veteran journalist said she had been tested by years of legal cases brought by the authorities over the work of her Rappler investigative news website.
“You don’t really know who you are until you are forced to fight for it,” she said.
The prize is the first Nobel Peace Prize for journalists since the German Carl von Ossietzky won it in 1935 for revealing his country’s secret post-war rearmament programme.
Mr Muratov (59) is the first Russian to win the peace prize since Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1990.
Mr Gorbachev himself has long been associated with Mr Muratov’s newspaper, having contributed some of his Nobel prize money to help set it up in the early post-Soviet days.
Ms Ressa (58) is the first winner of a Nobel prize in any field from the Philippines. Rappler, which she co-founded in 2012, has grown prominent through investigative reporting, including into large-scale killings during a police campaign against drugs.
In August, a Philippines court dismissed a libel case against Ms Ressa, one of several lawsuits filed against the journalist who says she has been targeted because of her site’s critical reports on President Rodrigo Duterte.
Nadezhda Prusenkova, a journalist at Novaya Gazeta, told a journalism website:
“We will leverage this prize in the interests of Russian journalism which (the authorities) are now trying to repress.”
Ms Reiss-Andersen said the Nobel committee intended the award to send a message about the importance of rigorous journalism at a time when technology has made it easier than ever to spread falsehoods.
It was also was a way to shine a light on the difficult situations for journalists, specifically under the leadership in Russia and the Philippines, she added.
The Kremlin congratulated Mr Muratov. “He persistently works in accordance with his own ideals, he is devoted to them, he is talented, he is brave,” said spokesman Dmitry Peskov.
The Nobel Peace Prize will be presented on December 10.