By GABBIE CASTRO
BACOOR, Cavite — In what is yet another first for a country dubbed as “one of the deadliest countries for journalists” in the world, veteran journalist Maria Ressa is one of the recipients of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize.
Ressa, CEO of online news Rappler and the first Filipino to win the prestigious accolade, shares this award with Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov for their efforts in advocating the importance of press freedom. This, the Norwegian Nobel Committee also deems, is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace.
“Ms. Ressa and Mr. Muratov are receiving the Peace Prize for their courageous fight for freedom of expression in the Philippines and Russia. At the same time, 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,” said the Norwegian Nobel Committee.
But what does this recognition mean for the Philippines?
In a statement, the International Association of Women in Radio and Television – Philippines said this is a vindication for Filipino journalists who have been targeted under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.
The president is one of the 37 state leaders named by Reporters Without Borders as “press freedom predators” of 2021.
In 2016, Rappler’s critical reportage on Duterte’s bloody drug war highlighted how it is being waged against the poor. It has since been slapped with tax evasion and cyber-libel charges.
Rappler, however, is not the only media outfit attacked by the Duterte administration.
Amid the raging pandemic, television network ABS-CBN was shut down, leaving a chilling effect on the Philippine news industry with thousands of media workers losing their job.
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines commends Ressa on her win through a statement saying that the prize is not only a recognition for their work “but of the importance of freedom of the press and of expression in their countries and throughout the world.”
“We hope this award will shine more light on those who put the spotlight on the truth at a time when basic freedoms and democracy are under attack,” the organization added.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee also echoed this sentiment stating, “Without freedom of expression and freedom of the press, it will be difficult to successfully promote fraternity between nations, disarmament and a better world order to succeed in our time.” (JJE, RTS)