The Nobel Committee’s choice of journalists Maria Ressa of the Philippines and Dmitry Muratov of Russia for this year’s Peace Prize is fitting at a time when a free press and democracy are under assault around the world.
In the case of Ressa, the award also provides some vindication in her ongoing battles with Facebook.
Ressa and Muratov are free press champions who’ve faced personal risks and even criminal charges as they champion the truth in countries where rulers fear journalism.
And Ressa has been an outspoken critic of Facebook, long arguing the social media giant helps prop up authoritarian regimes by allowing them to use Facebook to spread false stories and target critics. A couple of years ago she told The New York Times that while Facebook has become the world’s largest distributor of news, it refuses “to be the gatekeeper.”
She quickly used her new Nobel fame to criticize Facebook as a threat to democracy. In an interview with Reuters, she said Facebook profits from the spread of hate and lies and said the platform is “biased against facts.”
Awarding the Peace Prize to journalists is not unprecedented, but it has been very rare. This year’s award is fully justified and couldn’t come at a better time.
Ressa is the founder of the investigative digital outlet Rappler. Her revelations about the criminal acts of Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte led to the issuance of nearly a dozen arrest warrants against her in recent years. Despite violent threats made against her, Ressa has been stalwart in exposing lies and authoritarianism.
The newspaper Muratov runs is one of the only independent sources of news in Russia, as President Vladimir Putin has worked tirelessly to silence any non-state-sanctioned press. The newspaper has suffered for its work, with six of its journalist being killed. Putin’s government has been increasing pressure on journalists by labeling them as foreign agents.
Choosing Ressa and Muratov for the Nobel will help ensure their type of brave reporting continues to flourish. And the award has the added benefit of providing another warning about the danger to democracy from the political violence and lies that Facebook encourages.