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Filipino journalist bags Nobel Prize for defending press freedom

Bishops praise Duterte critic Maria Ressa, the country's first Nobel laureate

Filipino journalist bags Nobel Prize for defending press freedom

Maria Ressa is known for documenting President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. (Photo: AFP)

Veteran journalist Maria Ressa, who founded a digital media company for investigative journalism in the Philippines, has been awarded the coveted Nobel Peace Prize for fighting for freedom of expression and of the press.

Philippine bishops and churchgoers extended their congratulations to Ressa for becoming the Philippines' first Nobel laureate.

The announcement was made on Oct. 8 by Berit Reiss-Andersen, chairwoman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee. Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov shared the prestigious award.

“The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided to award the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize to Maria Ressa and Dmitri Muratov for their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace,” Reiss-Anderson told the press.

Ressa and Muratov received the award as representatives of journalists who were being persecuted for press freedom, according to the committee.

“Ms. Ressa and Mr. Muratov are receiving the Nobel Prize for their courageous fight for freedom of expression in the Philippines and in Russia,” Reiss-Anderson added. “They are representatives of all journalists … in which democracy and freedom of the press face increasingly adverse conditions.”

When facts are debatable, then you don’t have facts, you don’t have truth and you can’t have trust

Ressa is known for documenting President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on illegal drugs that has killed thousands of poor Filipinos.

Her media company, Rappler, documented how social media was “weaponized” by Duterte and his allies in spreading fake news and attacking dissenters.

“In fact, the algorithm of the world’s largest distributor of news — Facebook — actually favors lies laced with anger and hate that spreads faster than facts. When facts are debatable, then you don’t have facts, you don’t have truth and you can’t have trust,” said Ressa in an interview with Al Jazeera on Oct. 8.

“Without all these things, then you don’t have a shared reality, you can’t have democracy and you certainly can’t have any meaningful human engagement to deal with existential problems we face — climate, the coronavirus.”

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Ressa has been slapped with several legal cases by the Duterte administration.

She is facing several tax evasion charges and a libel case over an article allegedly maligning Wilfredo Keng, a businessman associated with the Duterte administration whose daughter was appointed by Duterte.

Ressa said she did not expect to bag the award but was glad her company’s documentary A Thousand Cuts featuring Duterte’s attacks on journalists reached worldwide attention.

“I was shocked. You could hear the shock in my voice. I was also live at that point for a panel on A Thousand Cuts, which is a documentary that was done about Rappler and what we had to go through in the past few years,” Ressa told Al Jazeera.

Wow! Praise the Lord for giving the Nobel Prize to our Maria Ressa for upholding freedom of the press! An embarrassment for Duterte

Philippine bishops and churchgoers extended their congratulations to Ressa for winning the prestigious award.

“Nobel Peace Prize for Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov. Congratulations!” said president of the bishops’ conference and KalookanBishop Pablo Virgilio David.

Retired SorsogonBishop Arturo Bastes likewise congratulated Ressa for upholding press freedom.

“Wow! Praise the Lord for giving the Nobel Prize to our Maria Ressa for upholding freedom of the press! An embarrassment for Duterte,” said Bishop Bastes on Facebook.

The winners of the prestigious prize, worth US$1.1 million, were announced at the Norwegian Nobel Institute in Oslo. They were chosen out of 329 candidates.

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