Updated: October 9, 2021 9:15:45 am
Too often, in recent times, there has been a tendency among the powers that be in many countries to confuse order for peace, harmony for freedom. Proto-authoritarian governments have a tendency to attack those that ask questions of them: Sometimes, they literally shoot the messenger. In this context, the decision of the Nobel committee to award the peace prize to Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov “for their efforts to safeguard the freedom of expression, which is a precondition for safeguarding democracy and peace”, is an acknowledgement of the challenges of, and threats to, journalism today.
Ressa and Muratov have spoken truth to power, and shone a light in areas that their governments would rather leave shrouded in opacity. In 2012, Ressa founded Rappler, a digital media company that has focused on investigative stories on the severe rights violations and killings by the Rodrigo Duterte regime in the Philippines. Muratov has been a free speech campaigner in Russia for decades. He is editor-in-chief of Novaya Gazeta, one of the few national newspapers that has extensively reported on government corruption and state over-reach under Vladimir Putin.
Journalism has been an embattled profession for some years now. Even in democracies, those asking questions — doing their job — are routinely targeted and villainised. That the Nobel Prize for peace has recognised the importance of the Fourth Estate in protecting democracy, and holding governments to account for the rule of law, is welcome and encouraging. Yet, the accolade is bittersweet. Telling truth to power, and making sure the voices of the powerless are heard, is a profession and a vocation that should be a normal and routinised part of every society. That doing the job is now, in large parts of the world, something that requires courage; that it is a battle for peace and justice that also invites a prize, is poignant.
This editorial first appeared in the print edition on October 9, 2021 under the title ‘Bittersweet prize’.
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