ASIA/PHILIPPINES – The Bishops: the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to journalist Maria Ressa, a sign of hope for the future

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Manila – “This is the first Nobel Prize ever awarded to a Filipino citizen. The fact that it is awarded to a woman and a brilliant journalist, Maria Ressa, distinguished for her professionalism in the current political situation in the Philippines, can only help Filipinos who love democracy proud and full of hope”, said to Fides Msgr. Pablo Virgilio David, Bishop of Caloocan, President-elect of the Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, appreciating that the Nobel Peace Prize committee has chosen for 2021 the Filipino journalist Maria Ressa, as well as the Russian reporter Dmitry Muratov. The two won the award for their commitment to defending freedom of expression in the Philippines and Russia.
“This award could not have been more timely than now as the country is preparing for the upcoming elections in May 2022”, said Bishop David.
“Many people see in this event the only hope of saving our institutions from being destroyed by populist demagogues or authoritarian leaders. In the context of the seemingly endless pandemic crisis – continues the Prelate’s analysis – the political battlefield for the elections has been practically transferred into the virtual arena of modern social media platforms”. This is where Ressa’s efforts come in: “She has done extensive research into how public opinion is virtually under the control of well-funded political cybercriminals. She has documented well how these people have hired armies of well-paid trolls who maintain countless fake accounts and constantly flood social media with fake news, bombard those who speak the truth with swear words and the crudest forms of vulgarity, veiled threats and cyber-harassment of all kinds”. Bishop David said: “The fact that this petite woman with a great soul, who dared to give a voice above all to the voiceless widows and orphans of the so-called ‘war on drugs’ is now in the spotlight of world attention, can only make us hope for the best”.
On announcing the Nobel Peace Prize on October 7, the Norwegian Nobel Committee said that Ressa and Muratov – selected from 329 candidates – are “representatives of all journalists who defend this ideal. Free, independent and evidence-based journalism serves to protect against abuse of power, lies and war propaganda”. “Without freedom of expression and freedom of press, it will be difficult to successfully promote brotherhood among nations, disarmament and a better world order”, reads a note from the Committee.
Maria Ressa, co-founder of the online news portal “Rappler” was acclaimed for her relentless fight for freedom of expression, because she had the courage to “denounce the abuse of power, the use of violence and growing authoritarianism in her native country, the Philippines”.
She has been the subject of political pressure and prosecution for her efforts: she has been tried and convicted of the alleged crime of “cyber defamation” and is free on bail. “This award is an honor for all Filipino media who are fighting for our democracy, our freedom of expression and freedom of press”, said Fernando D. Paragas, professor in the Communications Research Department at the University of Philippines Diliman. Glenda M. Gloria, editor-in-chief of Rappler and one of its co-founders, told readers: “This award is yours. Rappler is honored and amazed by this award that could not have come at a better time, given that journalists and the truth are currently being attacked and threatened”.
The Foreign Press Association of the Philippines said the Nobel Prize awarded to Ressa “is a victory for press freedom advocates in the Philippines, which remains one of the most dangerous countries in the world for the journalists”.
“It is the recognition not only of their work, but also of the importance of freedom of the press and of expression in their country andaround the world”, added the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines. Acting Vice President Leni Robredo described Ressa’s victory as “an acknowledgment and affirmation of her efforts to hold the line of truth and accountability”.