A Nobel Peace Prize doesn’t solve thorny political problems. It didn’t draw a line under apartheid when South African activist Albert Luthuli won it in 1960, or bring freedom to the Soviet Union when physicist and human rights campaigner Andrei Sakharov did in 1975. But it does, unfailingly, shed light on causes that need global attention. And rarely has a cause been in greater need of support than press freedom in 2021.
Friday’s win for Maria Ressa — indefatigable Filipino journalist, co-founder of digital media company Rappler and bete noire of President Rodrigo Duterte — and Dmitry Muratov — co-founder and editor-in-chief of Russia’s Novaya Gazeta, an opposition voice in a country that leaves no room for criticism — is a joint victory that highlights their resilience in the face of near-daily harassment. Both continue to publish critical work in countries run by strongmen who will stop at very little to silence them.
Novaya Gazeta has been under pressure throughout Vladimir Putin’s presidency. Fifteen years ago nearly to the day, Anna Politkovskaya, an investigative journalist working for Muratov’s paper who chronicled abuses in the region of Chechnya, was shot dead in Moscow. The statute of limitations for the crime expired on Thursday. Ressa, meanwhile, critical of police violence in Duterte’s drugs war, has been tangled in libel and tax evasion cases. The Philippines remains one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists.