The Norwegian Nobel Committee has selected Maria Ressa, co-founder of the digital news site Rappler, and Dmitry Muratov, the longtime editor of Novaya Gazeta, a Russian independent newspaper for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize.
They will receive the award for being “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.”
Significantly, the peace prize comes at an extremely challenging time for journalists all over the world as they are increasingly becoming targets for attacks in recent years. They are victims of harassment, threats, attacks, oppression, unequal pay, accusations of fake news and a growing mistrust.
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 21 scribes were killed worldwide in 2020 in retaliation for their work. The figures are more than double from the year before. The number of female journalists being killed is also on the rise. Yes, this award is recognition of the crucial role that journalists all around the globe play.
As United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in his message, “no society can be free and fair without journalists who are able to investigate wrongdoing, bring information to citizens, hold leaders accountable and speak truth to power”.
Both journalists have now attained what was termed as having “achieved celebrity” on an international level, or fame gained through professional accomplishments or successes in the duties they were assigned with. It is true both Ressa and Muratov will benefit from the enormous international exposure they have received. Their messages will be relayed by media outlets around the world. More importantly, the journalist fraternity is also benefiting, given the stature of the prize. For example, Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, an Argentine artist and human rights activist who won the Peace Prize in 1980, suddenly found he had access to senior US lawmakers and European government officials.
The fact is that Ressa, even after winning the award, continues to face online trolls threats with the same ferocity that she was facing throughout her career despite the Nobel Prize Committee’s announcement that “free, independent and fact-based journalism serves to protect against abuse of power, lies and war propaganda”.
No doubt, without freedom of expression and freedom of the press, as the Committee opined, “it will be difficult to successfully promote fraternity between nations, disarmament and a better world order to succeed in our time”.
The media serves an important role in providing investigative reports, debate, discussion, background and analysis, as well as news stories. One of the biggest parts that the media plays in society is through the dissemination of information from various news sources. Today, the media have become part of everyone’s life. It plays a major role in today’s society, and it is the food to strengthen or weaken a society. It is considered as the “mirror” of modern society, in effect, it is the media which shapes our lives.
Media can be considered as the “watchdog” of political democracy. The media affects people’s perspective. At the same time, too much intervention by the media in everything is a matter of concern.
Speaking to journalists and well-wishers outside Novaya Gazeta’s office in Moscow, the 59-year-old Muratov dedicated the award to his fallen colleagues.
“For us, this prize is, first and foremost, acknowledgment of the memory of our lost colleagues,” Muratov said while praising a new generation of “young journalists who’ve come in their stead”.