Journalists Dmitry Muratov and Maria Ressa called for better protection for independent reporting as they received their joint Nobel Peace Prize on Friday at a ceremony in Oslo.
Muratov, one of the founders of the independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta in 1993, and Ressa, who co-founded Rappler, a Filipino government critical news website, were announced as the winner of the prestigious prize in October.
The Nobel Committee praised them for “their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace” and their “courageous fight for freedom of expression in the Philippines and Russia”.
“Yes, we growl and bite. Yes, we have sharp teeth and a strong grip,” Muratov, 59, said of journalists on Friday. “But we are the prerequisite for progress. We are the antidote against tyranny.”
Muratov also used his speech to gave a dire warning about the potential for a war between Russia and Ukraine. A massive Russian troop buildup near Ukraine’s border has led to Western diplomatic efforts to prevent an invasion, which the Kremlin has denied it is planning.
“In (the) heads of some crazy geopoliticians, a war between Russia and Ukraine is not something impossible any longer. But I know that wars end with identifying soldiers and exchanging prisoners,” Muratov said.
Ressa, the first person from the Philippines to win the Nobel Peace Prize, offered a bleak assessment of the journalism industry, saying “the era of competition for news is dead”.
“We need to help independent journalism survive, first by giving greater protection to journalists and standing up against states which target journalists,” she said.
The 58-year-old was convicted last year of libel and sentenced to jail in a decision seen as a major blow to press global freedom.
She currently is out on bail but faces seven active legal cases.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) announced on Thursday that a record 293 journalists worldwide were jailed in 2021 for their work. According to the New York-based NGO, Russia is the eighth-worst offending country — jointly with Saudi Arabia — with 14 journalists currently behind bars. One Filipino journalist is also currently imprisoned for their work, according to the CPJ.
Reporters Without Borders meanwhile, ranked Russia 150 out of 180 countries in its latest annual Press Freedom Index. The Philippines came in at 138.
Together with the medals with the effigy of the prizes founder Alfred Nobel and diploma, came 10 million kronor (€990,000) to be shared between them.