The Norwegian Nobel Committee has awarded the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize to journalists Maria Ressa of the Philippines and Dmitry Muratov of Russia for their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which the committee called “a precondition for democracy and lasting peace.”
Ressa, who worked for two decades as an investigative reporter in the Philippines, was convicted of “cyberlibel” in 2020 for her reporting on government corruption and violence as CEO and co-founded of the news website Rappler, a conviction derided by the international community as a politically-motivated attack on press freedom by the government of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.
The longtime editor of Novaya Gazeta, Muratov has resisted government pressure and censorship in a rapidly shrinking media environment in Russia. He has helped to create “the only truly critical newspaper with national influence in Russia today,” according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.
Founded in 2012, Rappler provides investigative journalism in a country with endemic corruption and violence toward journalists. The committee cited her work for “focus[ing] critical attention on the Duterte regime’s controversial, murderous anti-drug campaign,” despite both legal and physical threats.
Muratov’s backing of the paper’s critical coverage of both Chechen wars was cited by the Norwegian Nobel Committee, as well as what the committee described as his “fact-based” methods of reporting. “Novaya Gazeta’s opponents have responded with harassment, threats, violence and murder,” said the committee. “Since the newspaper’s start, six of its journalists have been killed, including Anna Politkovskaja who wrote revealing articles on the war in Chechnya.”
The Norwegian Nobel Committee – one of five Nobel Committees, which exclusively awards the Nobel Peace Prize – is famously unpredictable. Last year it awarded the World Food Programme the prize, following 2019’s decision to award the prize to Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali for his work in brokering peace with Eritrea. In 2020, Abiy ordered the invasion of the Tigray region of the country, killing thousands and displacing hundreds of thousands of civilians to widespread international criticism.
Neither the Russian nor Philippine government has so far congratulated either winner of this year’s prize.