Bangkok, Oct 11 (EFE).- President Rodrigo Duterte Monday congratulated Filipino editor Maria Ressa, a strong critic of the government, days after winning the Nobel Peace Prize alongside Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov.
The presidential spokesperson, Harry Roque, sent a congratulatory message to Ressa, the first Filipino citizen to be awarded a Nobel individually.
“It is a victory for a Filipino and we are very happy for that,” Roque told reporters.
In the presidential palace’s first public comments on the award, the spokesperson said it was proof that “press freedom is alive” in the Philippines.
Ressa, 58, a co-founder of news website Rappler, and Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov were awarded the prize Friday “for their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace.”
Global rights defenders have alleged that press freedom in the Philippines is under threat due to the abuse of power by the Duterte government.
The Duterte administration has cracked down on media critical of its management with the closure of ABS-CBN, the largest media company in the Philippines, and the conviction of Ressa, director of the Rappler news portal, for cyber libel.
Ressa, who stood out for her investigative reporting about the so-called war on drugs by Duterte, faces seven cases and the possible closure of Rappler, the influential digital medium that she founded in 2012.
The deadly anti-drugs campaign has left thousands dead in police operations amid allegations of extrajudicial killing.
The alleged crimes against humanity are under a probe by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague.
Ressa has also fought against fake news and misinformation on social media like Facebook.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee said Ressa used freedom of expression “to expose abuse of power, use of violence and growing authoritarianism in her country.”
“Sometimes I joke and I say I should really thank President Duterte for a lot of things,” Ressa said in remarks to a group of international news agencies.
“He has forced me to define my lines, he has forced me to stick to the idea of my values. He has forced Rappler to be more idealistic, better, faster, more mission-driven, and I hope we come out of it stronger.” EFE