A top Philippine church leader has praised the distinguished journalist Maria Ressa’s winning the Nobel Peace Prize for 2021.
Ressa shared the award with fellow Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov, the co-founder and editor of the independent newspaper ‘Novaya Gazeta.’
The duo won the award for their fights to defend freedom of expression in the Philippines and Russia.
“This is the first Nobel Prize that has ever been awarded to a Filipino. The fact that it is being given to a woman and a brilliant journalist within our present political circumstances in the Philippines cannot but make democracy-loving Filipinos mighty proud and hopeful,” said Bishop Pablo Virgilio David of Caloocan, vice president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).
The award is “timely” as the country prepares for the general elections in May next year, he said.
“Many people see in it our only hope at saving our institutions from being destroyed by populist demagogues or by authoritarian leaders,” Bishop David said.
“In the context of the seemingly endless pandemic crisis, the political battleground for elections has practically been transferred to the virtual arena of modern social media platforms.
“It was Maria Ressa who did extensive research on the extent to which public opinion has been practically under the control of well-funded political cyber-criminals. She has documented well how these people have mastered the trade of running armies of well-paid trolls who maintain countless fake accounts that constantly flood the social media with fake news, bombard truth-tellers with cuss words and the crassest forms of badmouthing, veiled threats and cyber-bullying of all sorts.
“The fact that this petite woman with a large soul, who has dared to give a voice especially to the voiceless widows and orphans of the so-called war against illegal drugs, is now in the spotlight of global attention cannot but give us hope that we are not a hopeless lot, after all,” said David, who will take over as the president of CBCP on December 1.
Ressa and Muratov were awarded “for their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace,” the Norwegian Nobel Committee in Oslo, Norway said on October 8.
They are the “representatives of all journalists who stand up for this ideal,” the Committee said.
"Free, independent and fact-based journalism serves to protect against abuse of power, lies and war propaganda," the Committee said in a statement.
"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," it added.
The pair was selected out of 329 candidates.
Ressa, a co-founder of Rappler, a digital media company for investigative journalism, was hailed for her relentless fight for freedom of expression to “expose abuse of power, use of violence and growing authoritarianism in her native country, the Philippines.”
After the award was announced, she spoke to Rappler, saying, “I don’t think this is me, I think this is Rappler. I have – we have – all along said this since 2016, that that we are fighting for facts.
“And when we live in a world where facts are debatable, when the world’s largest distributor of news prioritizes the spread of lies laced with anger and hate, and spreads it faster and further than facts, then journalism becomes activism.
“And that’s the transformation that we’ve gone through in Rappler ... How do we do what we do? How can journalists continue the mission of journalism? Why is it so difficult to continue telling the community, telling the world, what the facts are, right?
“So in a battle for facts, I guess what this just shows is that that the Nobel peace prize committee realised that a world without facts means a world without truth and trust,” she said.
Ressa, 58, has won several awards for her relentless fighting for press freedom.