Jacob Peenikaparambil- Article: By awarding Nobel Prize for Peace to two journalists, Maria Ressa of the Philippines and Dimitry Muratov of Russia, the Nobel Committee has sent a strong message to the leaders of various countries of the world that without freedom of expression there cannot be genuine democracy, and peace without democracy is peace of the graveyard. These two journalists have been running independent news organizations in their own countries. They were given the prize “for their courageous fight for freedom of expression”.
Ms. Ressa is the co-founder of Raphler, a digital media company that focuses on investigative journalism. Raphler has exposed abuse of power, use of violence and growing authoritarianism in the Philippines. It has severely criticized Philippine’s President Rodrigo Duterte’s controversial anti-drug campaign. Raphler has published a series of articles called the “Impunity Series” featuring the deaths of thousands of suspected drug dealers and addicts. It is reported that the anti-drug campaign has targeted the poor in extra-judicial deaths.
In another series called “propaganda series” Raphler has come heavily on ‘weaponizing’ social media and the internet by the government to spread fake news in view of harassing political opponents and manipulating public discourse. It also has exposed issues like misogyny, human rights violations and corruption by political leaders.
The 59 year old Dimitry Muratov and the co-winner of the peace prize is the editor of the Novaya Gazeta newspaper in Russia. He has been the editor of the newspaper for more than two decades. Novaya Gazeta is one of the few remaining newspapers in Russia to be highly critical of the ruling elite, particularly President Vladimir Putin.
In the words of the Nobel Committee, the newspaper “has published critical articles on subjects ranging from corruption, police violence, unlawful arrests, electoral fraud, and ‘troll factories’ to the use of Russian military forces from within and outside Russia”. The publication had to pay a heavy price for its bold stand. Six of its journalists have been killed.
According to the Nobel Committee, the two journalists are representatives of all journalists who stand for freedom of expression in a world in which democracy and freedom of the press face increasingly adverse conditions.
The environment in India is also not very favourable for journalists who are true to their profession. According to a research study published in January 2021 under the title, “Behind Bars: Arrest and Detention of Journalists in India 2010-20”, 154 journalists were arrested, detained or interrogated between 2010 and 2020 in India, and 40% of these cases were reported in 2020 alone.
Media, especially the press, is considered as the fourth pillar in democracy. It is through the media that people get information on various governance issues. It is the responsibility of the media to present before the people the strengths and weaknesses of governance by the party in power. Media should be bold enough to expose to the people the failures and corrupt practices of the government and public figures in view of creating public opinion and public pressure on the government.
Despite threats, harassment and persecutions of honest media persons, there are a few media houses and individuals in all countries, who have the guts to face all kinds of oppositions and continue to fulfil their responsibility. They are to be supported and encouraged for the success of democracy, protection of human rights and promotion of peace and harmony. The Nobel Committee has boosted journalists all over the world by awarding Nobel Peace Prize to Maria Ressa and Dimitry Muratov.
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