New Delhi | Sugandha Jha: Press is considered the fourth pillar of democracy and the media organisations must report facts and keep everything in check. Thus, in a bid to encourage and honour journalists, Nobel Peace Prize is awarded by the Norwegian Nobel Committee on behalf of the estate of Alfred Nobel. In October 2021, Philippines journalist Maria Ressa and Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov won the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize for their courageous fight for freedom of expression in the face of authoritarian governments.

Interestingly, Ressa faces charges that could lead to about 100 years in jail. She was even banned from attending the Nobel Prize ceremony because of travel restrictions related to legal cases filed against her in the Philippines. Later, she was granted permission to attend the ceremony earlier this month by the Philippine court of appeals, which ruled she was not a flight risk. On the other hand, Muratov is described as one of the most prominent defenders of freedom of speech in Russia at present.

Here's all you need to know about them:

Why did they win the Nobel Peace Prize?

The Nobel Committee said it recognised the pair for their "efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace."

The committee said it wanted to highlight the plight of journalists across the globe who are operating in an increasingly repressive environment.

"This prize will not solve the problems that journalists and freedom of expression is facing," Berit Reiss-Andersen, the committee's chairwoman, told a news conference.

"But it will help shed a light on the importance of the work of journalists, and how dangerous it is not only in places facing war and conflict, but all over the world," she added.

Highlights of their work

Ressa is the co-founder of the investigative digital media company Rappler, which has focused on the brutal war on drugs waged by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. She has been at the forefront of documenting Duterte's war on drugs, which international non-governmental organisation Human Rights Watch says has led to the deaths of more than 12,000 Filipinos, some 2,500 killed by police. Ressa was also recognised for her work documenting how social media has been used to spread disinformation and harass political opponents.

Meanwhile, Muratov is a co-founder and the editor-in-chief of Novaya Gazeta, an independent newspaper holding power to account in President Vladimir Putin's increasingly authoritarian Russia. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Novaya Gazeta is the only truly critical newspaper with national influence in Russia today.

"Despite the Kremlin’s success in marginalising independent reporting, Novaya Gazeta continues to wield considerable influence with its uniquely uncompromising editorial line," the CPJ added.

Muratov's journalists have faced harassment and threats, and six of them have been murdered, including Igor Domnikov, Yuri Shchekochikhin, Anna Politkovskaya, Anastasia Baburova, Stanislav Markelov, and Natalya Estemirova. After winning, he told the Russian news agency Interfax that he would donate his prize money to the treatment of children with spinal muscular atrophy, as well as investing it in journalism. He also paid tribute to the paper's journalists who have been killed.

"This award is for our deceased colleagues, friends and journalists of this very newspaper," he had said.

Earlier recipients

In 2020, the prize went to the United Nations World Food Program for its efforts to combat hunger and food insecurity around the globe. Previous winners include survivors of Taliban attack and activists for female education Malala Yousafzai, anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela, civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., and four former U.S. presidents: Barack Obama, Jimmy Carter, Theodore Roosevelt, and Woodrow Wilson.

Posted By: Aalok Sensharma