EDITORIAL: The award of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize to two investigative journalists, Maria Ressa of the Philippines and Dmitry Muratov of Russia, is not only a well-deserved honour for them it also serves as an inspiration for journalists in other countries. Unfazed by pressure from their governments, even threats of murder, both journalists have worked tirelessly to hold the powerful to account. Ressa, co-founder of a digital media company for investigative journalism, Rappler, has won the prize for using freedom of expression to “expose abuse of power, use of violence and growing authoritarianism in her native country, the Philippines” and Muratov, editor-in-chief of one of Russia’s leading independent newspapers, Novaya Gazeta, which lost six journalists in the line of duty for reporting on malpractices in ruling circles and rights abuses, including in Chechnya, gets commended for having defended “for decades freedom of speech in Russia under increasingly challenging conditions.”
While lauding the efforts of Ressa and Muratov in its announcement, the Nobel Committee empathised a broader message of its decision, saying freedom of expression “is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace”; and that “without freedom of expression and freedom of the press, it will be difficult to successfully promote fraternity between nations, disarmament and better world order to succeed in our time.” Indeed, freedom of expression is a core democratic value. The role of independent media is to act as society’s watchdog, pointing to the ruling elites’ acts of omission and commission, which helps improve governance for the greater good of the people. Unfortunately, there is a rising tendency even among some democratically elected governments to control the media. Censorship is freely used to get rid of unfavourable coverage. Those who refuse to fall in line are subjected to pressure through intimidation and violence. The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) in its report released last October speaks of hundreds of journalists jailed or subjected to violence for their work in various countries, including Pakistan. Its Global Impunity Index ranks this country at 9th position among others where journalists are murdered and their killers go free, and where “corruption, weak institutions, and lack of political will to pursue robust investigation into the killings of journalists are factors behind impunity.” A particularly distressing aspect of the CPJ’s findings is that during the last 10 years, as many as 15 journalists have been murdered in Pakistan, and in none of the cases killers have been brought to justice.” To say the least, it is a crying shame for this democracy.
The Peace Prize has come at a time journalists increasingly face dangerous situations not only in authoritarian states but also in some others while reporting facts. It is a moment of pride, therefore, for all media practitioners who withstand increasing adverse conditions to protect and defend freedom of expression.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2021