Russian dissident Alexei Navalny can add his name to the growing list of candidates who have been shafted by the Nobel Committee this year (many grumbled when the creators of the mRNA COVID jabs didn't win the medicine Nobel).
The Nobel Committee announced Friday that the winners of this year's Nobel Peace Prize are a pair of journalists who challenged "authoritarian" regimes with their fearless reporting, the Committee said. The prize ultimately went to Maria Ressa, the editor and founder of the Rappler, an independent Philippines digital-media outlet that has persisted with critical coverage of 'strongman' President Rodrigo Duterte and his use of death squads to extrajudiciallly purge drug dealers and other criminals.
"Free, independent and fact-based journalism serves to protect against abuse of power, lies and war propaganda," the committee said in a statement.
"Without freedom of expression and freedom of the press, it will be difficult to successfully promote fraternity between nations, disarmament and a better world order to succeed in our time," it added.
She will share the prize with Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov, founding editor of the independent Novaya Gazeta newspaper, what the committee said was one of the few remaining "independent" news sources in Russia. The newspaper was founded in the 1990s, and was helped by an initial investment in former Soviet Leader (and fellow Peace Prize recipient) Mikhail Gorbachev.
Ressa, who cut her death reporting from conflict zones, said even this didn't prepare her from the backlash she would face from Duterte and his supporters since founding the Rappler in 2011.
"There were so many hate messages ... Ninety hate messages an hour, 90 rape threats per minute," the first Nobel laureate from the Philippines told Reuters in 2017.
As a result of her reporting, Ressa is currently free on bail as she appeals a six-year prison sentence handed down last year for a libel conviction, Ressa expressed "shock and disbelief" on Friday after sharing the prize. She says she has had to post bail ten times after being arrested as a result of her reporting.
The Nobel committee said their award was an endorsement of free speech rights, which it said are under threat worldwide. The Rappler remains embroiled in a legal tussle with the government to have its license revoked, allegedly for violating laws on foreign ownership, even as Ressa attests that the outlet is "100% Filipino-owned".
Back in Russia, Novaya Gazeta has published investigative stories that have been at times critical of the Russian government's conduct in the war in Chechnya, and investigations into the wealth controlled by oligarchs. Navalny, though his documentaries, has done similar types of investigations. But unlike Navalny, at least six of Novaya Gazeta's journalists have been killed since the start of its existence (Navalny claims to have been poisoned by the Kremlin twice).
Globally, the number of journalists killed peaked in 2012, and has since declined. But while the Nobel Committee focused on journalists who bravely held "authoritarian" regimes accountable (Duterte, the Filipino strongman, has just declared his retirement from politics), it's perhaps overlooking the fact that in the US, the home of "the free press", public trust in the media remains at rock-bottom levels.