United States President Joe Biden and his predecessor Barack Obama lead world leaders in congratulating veteran journalist Maria Ressa for winning the prestigious 2021 Nobel Peace Prize together with Russian writer Dmitry Muratov of Russia.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee gave Ressa and Muratov the recognition “for their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace.” Ressa made history as the first person from the Philippines to receive a Nobel prize.
In a statement released by the White House, Biden said: “I congratulate Maria Ressa of the Philippines and Dmitry Muratov of Russia for the much-deserved honor of being named this year’s winners of the Nobel Peace Prize … For their commitment to the basic principles of the free press – principles that are indispensable to a healthy democracy – they have faced constant threats, harassment and intimidation, legal action, and even, in the case of Muratov, the death of his colleagues.”
Biden also explicitly referenced Ressa when he mentioned that journalists all over the world are doing a groundbreaking world to “hold the line” amidst what he described as “a global battle for the very idea of the truth.” The American president also commended the Nobel Committee for honoring the two journalists’ work in “bringing greater attention to the increasing pressure on journalists, the free press, and freedom of expression all around the world.”
For his part, Obama – himself a Nobel peace prize laureate – wrote via Twitter: “This award is a tribute to their extraordinary courage and the enduring value of fact-based journalism and freedom of expression, which is under threat in far too many places today.”
Unsurprisingly, the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte is yet to release a similar statement congratulating Ressa even if it has been almost two days since the announcement from the Nobel Committee. A former chief of CNN’s Southeast Asia bureau and head of ABS-CBN News, Ressa founded the online news site Rappler in 2012. As Duterte took office, Rappler gained reputation for its incisive and comprehensive reporting on the administration’s War on Drugs as well as its use of social media trolls to artificially influence online political discourse.
Duterte and his supporters did not take it lightly. During his July 2017 State of the Nation Address, Duterte claimed that Rappler is “fully owned” by Americans. By January 2018, or six months later after Duterte’s attacks, the Securities and Exchange Commission revoked the news organization’s license for allegedly violating the 1987 Constitution and the country’s Anti-Dummy Law. The news outlet and its owners has since then faced numerous charges – including a cyberlybel conviction against Ressa last June 2022 before a Manila court.