6 June 2024

Maria Ressa and Dimitry Muratov are very courageous journalists, enduring difficulties concocted by their governments to weaken or rather terminate their ability to do their jobs. President Rodrigo Duterte and President Vladimir Putin have failed to fight against these brave souls. Their journalistic professionalism has also shed light on what their leaders could do when they abuse the power invested in them by those who elected them. 

The two Nobel laureates deserve the prize, as they have stood firm without yielding, knowing full well that they would face enormous problems with lawsuits and organized intimidation by networks of power wielders inside the country. This year’s awardees help to highlight the pivotal and often precarious role journalists play in promoting facts and truthful information. In today’s world of instant news and instant sharing, truth has been the biggest casualty as the audience can no longer figure out what is real or fake news. Without truth, there is no trust. Dictators favor this kind of murkiness as they can manipulate their people and prolong their powerful grips.

In the case of the Philippines, it is interesting to note that the extreme conditions created by Duterte in a country that used to boast the region’s freest media have helped highlight the quality and determination of Filipino journalists and their commitment to reporting what is going on in their society. It is an open secret among the global media community that taking up this career in the Philippines is suicidal.  A Filipino journalist could be killed at any time by a hired gunman. Some journalists have to be armed to defend themselves.

In 2009, the world was shocked to hear that a total of 32 journalists had been massacred by a rival candidate because they were reporting on a local election to pick a new mayor of Maguindanao in the Southern Philippines. A top journalist like Ressa has to face threats from President Duterte himself who has attacked and framed her to discredit her news organization. However, at the provincial and local level, journalists are targeted for deadly assaults if their reports are deemed critical or expose the malfeasance of certain vested interest groups due to fierce political competition and rivalries.

Journalists who took on Putin and Duterte win 2021 Nobel Peace Prize

OSLO, Oct 8 (Reuters) – Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov, journalists whose work has angered the rulers of the Philippines and Russia, were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday, an award the committee said was an endorsement of free speech rights under threat worldwide.

A similar situation has also prevailed In Russia. Novaya Gazeta is an exceptional Russian newspaper that has stood firm against the tyrannic leaders in his country. One of the paper’s well-known journalists, Anna Politkovskaya, was murdered in 2006 after she ran a series of investigative stories on the conflicts in Chechnya from 1999-2005 in her paper. Editor-in-chief Muratov has been brave and refused to kowtow to the authorities.

This year’s Nobel prize will inspire journalists around the world to deliver news and information with pride by getting out the truth without fear or favor. In Southeast Asia, Ressa will be a role model for journalists and media workers of all ages. Since its inception in 2012, her news website, Rappler, has reported extensively about the dark side of democratically elected leaders in the Philippines. To recognize the important role of journalism, the UN General Assembly assigned 2 November as the “International Day to end Impunity for Crimes against Journalists.

In retrospect, Thailand is lucky as the media community still has the freedom to report and criticize the authorities. These days all issues are subject to public scrutiny and call-out by social media. The quality of reporting is mixed. That helps explain why a few fact-checking websites have been created.

Quite often, the authorities have tried to block and discourage the media from reporting negative news that would damage those in power, especially during the pandemic. Whenever they try to gag the media, journalists and human rights defenders join up to fight against the government and proposed laws that would tamper with press liberty and freedom of expression as guaranteed by the constitution.

With the Nobel prize tag, journalism has been further elevated to the highest plateau. It is the weapon of mass destruction against all tyrants and their domains.

by Kavi Chongkittavorn