WASHINGTON (HPD) — Winning the Nobel Peace Prize often gives impetus to a grassroots movement or international organization working for peace and human rights. It opens doors and focuses attention on its causes.
But it’s not always like this.
For the two journalists who shared the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize, the last year has not been easy at all.
The Russian Dmitry Muratov and the Filipino Maria Ressa have made an effort to keep alive the struggle of their organizations, which their governments want to silence.
The two were awarded last year for “their efforts to preserve freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace.”
Muratov, editor of the daily Novaya Gazeta, saw the already bad situation of the independent press in Russia worsen after the invasion of Ukraine on February 24. The newspaper removed much of its reporting on the war from its website a week later, in response to a new law that threatened anyone who published information critical of the armed forces or deemed “ false”.
This included any mention that Russian forces caused civilian casualties or suffered defeats on the battlefield. All other major independent media outlets in Russia closed or had their websites blocked. Many journalists left the country.
But Novaya Gazeta kept going, with three weekly print publications reaching 27 million readers in March, according to Muratov.
Finally, on March 28, after two warnings from Russian press regulators, the paper announced that it would cease publication for the duration of the war. Several of its journalists, however, started a new project abroad, called Novaya Gazeta Europe.
Muratov continued to publish the diary through many hard times since its founding in 1993. The diary was highly praised, but also made numerous enemies for its critical tone and investigations into abuse and corruption. Six of its journalists were killed.
In April, when Muratov was on a train to travel from Moscow to Samara, an individual threw red paint at him, causing injuries to his eyes. Muratov said the man yelled at him, “Muratov, this is for our guys!”
In September, on the other hand, a court approved the withdrawal of its license that regulators had requested.
In his appeal, Muratov said that regulators should be satisfied that the paper was no longer published, but that they wanted to give it “a coup de grace to the head” to make sure it was dead.
In June there was a positive note, when his Nobel Peace Prize was auctioned off for $103.5 million, breaking the old record for a Nobel. She used the money to help Ukrainian refugee children. Muratov said he also donated the $500,000 he received for the prize to charity.
In the Philippines, the legal problems of Ressa and his Rappler news website under Rodrigo Duterte’s government did not abate after his departure after completing a turbulent six-year term on June 30, which activists describe as a calamity for human rights.
Ressa’s online service was one of the most critical of Duterte’s brutal crackdown on drug trafficking. Thousands of people died, mostly street vendors, and the International Criminal Court launched an investigation into possible crimes against humanity.
For much of Duterte’s government, Ressa and Rappler, which she founded in 2012, endured a number of lawsuits that threatened to shut down the increasingly popular website and jail her.
Two days before Duterte left office, regulators upheld an earlier decision to revoke Rappler’s license on the grounds that he had allowed a foreign investor to take over his license, violating a law that prevents just that. Rappler said that he was going to resist that decision.
He has the support of prominent figures, such as Hillary Clinton, who said in a tweet that “Rappler and María Ressa speak the truth. Closing that portal would be very detrimental to the country and its people.”
A week later, in July, in the early days of the government of Ferdinand Marcos Jr., a Manila appeals court upheld a defamation conviction of Ressa and a former Rappler journalist in a separate trial and sentenced them both to prison. longest, six years, eight months and 20 days.
Their lawyers appealed for them to remain free so they can continue to publish their newspaper.
Chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Prize Committee Berit Reiss-Andersen said the ruling “highlights the importance of free, independent, fact-based journalism that protects against abuses of power, lies and war propaganda.” .
There are those who attribute the unexpected electoral victory of Marcos, who is the son of a dictator accused of violating human rights and corruption, overthrown in 1986, to a well-financed social media campaign that whitewashed the history of the Marcos family. and highlighted the impact of the internet.
When asked about Ressa and Rappler during a visit to New York last month, Marcos Jr. said his government would not interfere with the legal proceedings.
“It was determined that (Rappler) was a foreign company and that is not allowed by our laws,” he limited himself to saying.
The winner of the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize will be announced in Oslo on Friday.