Nobel Peace Prize Winners Call For Journalist Protections

On October 8th, Norway hosted the 2021 Nobel Peace Ceremony, recognizing Maria Ressa of the Philippines and Dmitry Muratov of Russia as co-winners of the Nobel Peace Prize. Having worked in their respective countries’ journalism industries and having seen their colleagues suffer countless incidents of unjust persecution and violence, Ressa and Muratov shared an ardent and heartfelt call to provide further protection and support for vulnerable journalists threatened by foes in authoritarian governments.

Both laureates have been threatened by their governments. “In less than 2 years, the Philippine government filed 10 arrest warrants against me. I’ve had to post bail 10 times just to do my job,” Ressa said. “All told, the charges I face could send me to jail for about 100 years.” The pressure on Muratov was less direct. “Over a hundred [Russian] journalists, media outlets, human rights defenders, and NGOs have recently been branded as ‘foreign agents,’” he explained. “In Russia, this means ‘enemies of the people.’ Many of our colleagues have lost their jobs. Some have to leave the country.” The laureates agreed that the award is truly meant for the countless independent journalists who are currently under threat for their work – the ones who are locked up in prison, as well as those who have lost their lives in the line of duty. “[T]his award is for all true journalism,” Muratov said. “This award is to my colleagues from Novaya Gazeta, who have lost their lives – Igor Domnikov, Yuri Shchekotschikhin, Anna Politkovskaya, Anastasija Baburova, Stas Markelov, and Natasha Estemirova.”

Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov’s strength, character, and perseverance serve as exemplary models for young journalists and professionals around the world. Their unwavering sense of moral responsibility to fulfill their cause as truth-tellers, even under threat from their governments, demands the utmost respect.

The most memorable part of Muratov’s lecture is his account of the role that journalists play in society; namely, their mission in promoting peace and creating progress in the world. Independent journalists hold authoritarian regimes in check by holding governments accountable for unjust and unethical actions. “We are the prerequisite for progress,” Muratov declares. “We are the antidote against tyranny.”

Perhaps it is this unwavering sense of duty and faith in the service of achieving a better world that ultimately drives these people to partake in inherently risky journalism. When Muratov’s colleagues were asked if they were afraid of the danger implicated in their work, Muratov said, “But this is their mission. As governments continually improve the past, journalists try to improve the future.”

As citizens of the world, it is our responsibility to call for further support for journalists threatened by authoritarian states and to allocate the means of protection. We can assist these journalists by cultivating awareness of the danger they currently face through reviewing the World Press Index. According to the World Press Freedom Index, journalists in Iran, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan are especially vulnerable to violence and coercion when reporting on politically sensitive news and information related to authoritarian regimes. We should advocate for the safety of journalists in these countries and pressure their freedom as a collective.

Strengthening international laws regarding freedom of the press and applying them to more countries will also hold governments accountable for unjustly persecuting journalists, providing these heroes further protection.

Maria Ressa, Dmitry Muratov, and other journalists of their ilk are valiantly fighting the battle against tyranny, willing to sacrifice everything to reveal the truth to the world. We must find ways to preserve their lives.