Nobel peace laureates call for protection of journalists

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) – The two journalists who shared this year’s Nobel Peace Prize received their awards on Friday in a glitzy ceremony in Norway, the two warning that the world needs independent reporting to counter the power of authority.

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) – The two journalists who shared this year’s Nobel Peace Prize received their awards on Friday in an auspicious ceremony in Norway, both warning that the world needs independent reporting to counter the power of authoritarian governments.

Maria Ressa from the Philippines and laureate Dmitry Muratov from Russia gave their Nobel talks at Oslo City Hall. The Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded them the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize for their separate struggles for free speech in countries where journalists have faced persistent attacks, harassment and killings.

“Yes, we growl and bite. Yes, we have sharp teeth and a strong grip, ”Muratov said of reporters. “But we are the precondition for progress. We are the antidote to tyranny.

Muratov also used his speech to warn of the potential for a war between Russia and Ukraine. A massive build-up of Russian troops near the Ukrainian border has led to Western diplomatic efforts to prevent an invasion, which the Kremlin has denied planning.

“In (the) minds of some mad geopoliticians, a war between Russia and Ukraine is no longer something impossible. But I know that wars end with the identification of soldiers and the exchange of prisoners “said Muratov.

Ressa, 58, co-founded Rappler, a news site critical of the Philippine government, in 2012. Muratov, 59, was one of the 1993 founders of the independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta.

Ressa, the first person from the Philippines to win the Nobel Peace Prize, presented a grim assessment of the journalism industry, saying “the era of competition for news is over.”

“We must help independent journalism survive, first by giving greater protection to journalists and by standing up against states that target journalists,” she told an audience of 200, including members. of the Norwegian royal family and officials seated three feet apart. for the ceremony cut short by the pandemic. Normally, the Oslo event is attended by 1,000 people.

Ressa, who was visibly moved, couldn’t resist taking a selfie with Muratov inside Oslo City Hall before the Norwegian royal family arrived.

Along with the medals bearing the likeness of the founder of the Alfred Nobel Prize and the diploma, 10 million crowns ($ 1.1 million) were shared between them.

Norwegian Nobel Committee chairperson Berit Reiss-Andersen said freedom of expression and information are “a basic precondition for democracy itself”. The winners “take part in a war where the written word is their weapon, where the truth is their objective and where each denunciation of abuse of power is a victory”.

Muratov said that in Russia journalism “runs through a dark valley” with many journalists and human rights activists referred to as “foreign agents”.

“Many of our colleagues have lost their jobs. Some have to leave the country. Some are deprived of the opportunity to lead a normal life for an indefinite period of time. Maybe forever … “

Muratov ended his conference by asking the assembly to honor the journalists “who gave their lives for this profession, with a minute of silence. I want journalists to die old”.

The Brussels-based International Federation of Journalists on Thursday said imprisonments of media workers were on the rise, with 365 journalists behind bars compared to 235 last year. Nine journalists have been killed in the line of duty in Afghanistan alone and 102 jailed in China.

Russia still has 12 journalists behind bars, and three reporters were killed in the Philippines, the statement said.

David Beasley, head of the World Food Program which won the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize, also gave a talk in Oslo and called on world leaders to “assert your power and stop all these horrible wars”. Beasley received the award last year at a ceremony in Rome, due to the pandemic.

He said the combination of conflict, climate and COVID “has created an unprecedented perfect storm,” adding that “45 million in 43 countries are knocking on the door of famine – and it is in our power to save them” .

He also urged billionaires to “give us the $ 6.6 billion we need to prevent famine now and save 45 million lives now”, and said they “knew how to revolutionize phones, cars , rockets and retail “. Help us revolutionize the way the planet eats.

Ceremonies in honor of all new Nobel laureates are usually held in Oslo and the Swedish capital, Stockholm, on December 10, the anniversary of the death of the founder Alfred Nobel. However, due to the pandemic, the prizes in physics, chemistry, medicine, literature and economics were presented at ceremonies in the hometowns of the winners.

“The ongoing coronavirus pandemic still deeply affects our lives. Like last year, you have received the Nobel Prize diploma and medals, ”said Carl-Henrik Heldin, President of the Nobel Foundation, during a ceremony to honor the laureates at City Hall on Friday. from Stockholm.

The audience of 250 included Swedish King Carl XVI Gustav, senior members of the Swedish royal family, academics and government officials. Normally about 1,250 people attend.

Concluding the nearly 90-minute event, actress Lena Olin, who hosted the ceremony, said that the 2021 laureates are “doomed to truth in various forms – scientific knowledge, human experience and the fundamental right of journalists to report facts ”.

In Oslo, the day will end with a torchlight procession from the city’s central station to the Grand Hotel, where Peace Prize winners will greet the parade from a balcony.

Jan M. Olsen, The Associated Press

Carol N. Valencia