Manila, Oct 9 (EFE).- Filipino-American journalist and author Maria Ressa, co-recipient of the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize, said here Saturday that the award is an acknowledgment of the increased dangers facing members of the media worldwide and will help instill in them the courage to keep going and hold the powerful to account.
In bestowing that honor Friday on the 58-year-old Ressa and Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov, the Norwegian Nobel Committee hailed their “efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace.”
“You can see that the spotlight of the Nobel Committee (was) trained on the Philippines, on journalists, not just (those) in the Philippines but all around the world,” Ressa, president and CEO of online news website Rappler, a leading media outlet in her country, said in remarks to a group of international news agencies.
Ressa provoked the ire of Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte – and became the target of legal harassment and a smear campaign on social media – with her investigation of his murderous war of drugs.
More than 7,000 people were killed in the first six months of Duterte’s presidency (July to December 2016), after the Filipino head of state ordered police to kill anyone they believed to be linked to the drug trade, according to human rights watchdog Amnesty International.
The Duterte government thus far has refrained from commenting on the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Ressa, who became the first Filipino citizen to win that prestigious award.
“I think this is what happens when you cross the line and try to pound someone to silence. I have always believed in the goodness of human nature and I feel like people have recognized it,” Ressa said when asked about the controversial president.
Ressa, who is out on post-conviction bail after being found guilty of cyberlibel and sentenced to prison last year, still faces seven active legal cases involving alleged tax evasion and illegal foreign ownership of the media.
She could face up to six years in prison if her cyberlibel conviction is upheld on appeal. For now, it is unclear if her country’s courts will grant her permission to travel to Oslo to receive her Nobel Peace Prize on Dec. 10.
“Sometimes I joke and I say I could really thank President Duterte for a lot of things,” Ressa said. “He’s forced me to define my lines, stick to the idea of my values; he’s forced Rappler to be more idealistic, better, faster, more mission-driven, and I hope we come out of it stronger.” EFE