Nobel Peace Prize awarded to ‘courageous’ journalists for fighting disinformation and attacks on press

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The Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to two journalists who have championed press freedom against authoritarian regimes.

Maria Ressa is a leading reporter in the Philippines who has been previously honoured for fighting disinformation and attacks on the free press.

Dmitry Muratov is editor-in-chief of Novaya Gazeta, an independent newspaper in Russia, which has run investigations on corruption, human rights violations and abuse of power.

Ms Ressa co-founded Rappler – a independent news website – in 2012. She was praised by the Nobel committee for using it to expose the growing authoritarianism and violence of President Rodrigo Duterte’s regime and his “murderous anti-drug campaign”.

She and Rappler “have also documented how social media is being used to spread fake news, harass opponents and manipulate public discourse”, the committee said.

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Since the start of Novaya Gazeta six of its journalists have been killed, but under Mr Muratov’s leadership it has continued to report on subject rarely mentioned by other media.

“Novaya Gazeta is the most independent newspaper in Russia today, with a fundamentally critical attitude towards power,” the Nobel committee said.

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The winners were announced on Friday by Berit Reiss-Andersen, chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee.

She praised the pair for their “courageous fight” to protect freedom of expression in their respective nations.

“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,” she added.

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Ms Ressa said she was ‘in shock’ at the prestigious win

Ms Ressa said she was “in shock” at having won the award in a live broadcast hosted on Rappler.

Later speaking to Norway’s TV2 channel she said “the government (of the Philippines) will obviously not be happy”.

Novaya Gazeta meanwhile published news of the win on their website.

Mr Muratov’s achievement was also referenced by a Kremlin spokesman, who said: “We can congratulate Dmitry Muratov… He persistently works in accordance with his own ideals, he is devoted to them, he is talented, he is brave.”

The Nobel Peace Prize is intended to honour an individual or organisation that has “done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations”.

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Dmitry Muratov was praised for continuing to report on tough topics in Russia despite continued threats

This year’s favourites had included the World Health Organisation for its work combating COVID; Greta Thunberg for her climate change advocacy; and the imprisoned Putin critic Alexei Navalny.

Last year it was given to the World Food Programme “for its efforts to combat hunger… its contribution to bettering conditions for peace in conflict-affected areas.”

The winner of the prestigious award is given a gold medal and 10 million Swedish kronor (GBP836,660).

The prize money comes from a request left by the prize’s creator, Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel, who died in 1895. It will be presented on 10 December on the anniversary of his death.

Analysis by Diana Magnay, Moscow correspondent

Dmitry Muratov is the third Russian to win the Nobel Peace Prize, alongside former president Mikhail Gorbachev and the Soviet dissident and human rights activist, Andrei Sakharov.

As editor-in-chief of Russia’s most famous independent newspaper, Novaya Gazeta, he has championed freedom of expression, leading a team of fearless reporters who’ve continued to shed light on corruption and human rights abuses, despite continual harassment and, tragically, the murder of colleagues.

His prize comes one day after the 15th anniversary of the killing of Novaya Gazeta’s Anna Politkovskaya, who had continually shone a light on human rights abuses in Chechnya.

No one has been held accountable for her murder, and yesterday marked the expiration of the statute of limitations on that crime.

Novaya Gazeta is owned in part by the Russian businessman Alexander Lebedev and former president Mikhail Gorbachev.

It is one of the few independent outlets still to have avoided being labelled a foreign agent, perhaps because of its prestigious establishment links at a time when almost all smaller investigative outlets are experiencing extreme pressure at the hands of the Russian authorities.

The Kremlin today congratulated Mr Muratov, calling him a “talented, courageous journalist”.

They are most likely pleased the prize was not awarded to President Putin’s arch-nemesis, Alexei Navalny, whose name was touted as a possible winner ahead of the announcement.

Despite their accolades, though, as the Nobel Committee recognised, Mr Muratov has refused to compromise his journalistic ethics or independence at Novaya Gazeta as his team continues to hold the Russian state to account.

His award is a resounding voice of support for journalism at a time when Russian authorities are doing their very best to crush independent, investigative reporting and freedom of speech.

On Monday, the Nobel Committee awarded the prize in physiology or medicine to Americans David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian for their discoveries into how the human body perceives temperature and touch.

And on Tuesday, the Nobel Prize in physics was awarded to three scientists whose work helped to explain and predict complex forces of nature, including expanding our understanding of climate change.

Benjamin List and David W.C. MacMillan were named as laureates of the Nobel Prize for chemistry on Wednesday for finding an easier and environmentally cleaner way to build molecules that can be used to make compounds, including medicines and pesticides.

The Nobel Prize for literature was awarded to UK-based Tanzanian writer Abdulrazak Gurnah, who was recognised for his “uncompromising and compassionate penetration of the effects of colonialism and the fate of the refugee.”