While announcing the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize for journalist Maria Ressa and Smitry Muratov, Norwegian Nobel Committee chair Berit Reiss-Anderson said: “They are representing for all journalists, in a world in which democracy and freedom of the press face increasingly adverse conditions. Being in the profession of journalist for over 32 years, I am personally delighted, honored and of course highly encouraged for this Nobel Committee’s decision of giving the Nobel Peace Prize to my fellow journalists. Certainly, the Norwegian Nobel Committee well-deserves our profound gratitude and thanks for such praiseworthy decision.
The honor for Muratov, the co-founder of Russia’s Novaya Gazeta, and Ressa, the CEO of the Philippine news site Rappler, is enormously important. In part that’s because of the protection that global attention may afford two journalists under imminent and relentless threat from the strongmen who run their respective countries. “The world is watching”, Reiss-Andersen pointedly noted in an interview after making the announcement.
Equally important is the larger message the committee wanted to deliver. “Without media, you cannot have a strong democracy,” Reiss-Andersen said.
The two Nobel Peace Prize laureates’ cases highlight an emergency for civil society: Muratov, editor of what the Nobel Prize Committee described as “the most independent paper in Russia today”, has seen six of his colleagues slain for their work criticizing Russian leader Vladimir Putin.
Ressa, a former CNN reporter, is under a de facto travel ban because the government of Rodrigo Duterte, in an obvious attempt to bankrupt Rappler, has filed so many legal cases against the website that Ressa must go from judge to judge to ask permission any time she wants to leave the country.
Commenting on latest Nobel Peace Prize to journalists, Kathy Kiely,
Professor and Lee Hills Chair of Free Press Studies, University of Missouri-Columbia wrote:
Three decades after the downfall of totalitarian regimes in Eastern Europe, forces of darkness and intolerance are on the march. Journalists are the canaries down the noxious mine shaft. Attacks on them are becoming more brazen: whether it is the grisly dismemberment of Saudi dissident and writer Jamal Khashoggi, the grounding of a commercial airplane to snatch a Belarusian journalist or the infamous graffiti “Murder the Media” scrawled onto a door of the US Capitol during the Jan. 6 insurrection.
Reporters become the story
Journalist Maria Ressa and Smitry Muratov have now become story themselves immediately after the Nobel Prize Committee announced their names as the recipients of the prestigious prize. While we must cheer this august moment, we also need to remember, there is distinctive difference between journalism and anarchism. In some of the countries in the world, in the name of journalism, some individuals are engaged in spreading propaganda in favor of political evils and also agents of jihad and terrorism. For example, if we take the case of some journalists in the Western nations, they are becoming increasing enthusiastic in spreading lies or twisted fact in promoting anti-Semitism, Holocaust denials and jihadism. We have seen how the western media had played foul in appeasing Iranian rogue regime or Palestinian terrorist groups. Defending terrorism can not be seen a good journalism. At the same time, demonizing a government for continuing offensives on drugs, terrorism and criminal activities is not expected from a sensible journalist.
While we fully agree with Reiss-Andersen who said “Without media, you cannot have a strong democracy”, we also need to note, no democracy can survive unless journalists detach themselves from supporting or defending evil activities of any individual or group – or a government. Journalists need to stand firm against terrorism, jihad, drugs and extremism. This is essential for the further growth of good journalism.