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Philippine press freedom advocates hail Maria Ressa's Nobel Prize

Published Oct 09, 2021 11:00 am Updated Oct 11, 2021 1:50 pm

Philippine journalists and rights activists said Friday the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Maria Ressa was a "triumph" for press freedom in one of the world's most dangerous countries for media workers.

The Norwegian Nobel committee gave the prize to journalists Ressa of the Philippines and Dmitry Muratov of Russia for their tireless work in promoting freedom of expression at a time when liberty of the press is increasingly under threat. 

"It is... a triumph of a free and courageous press," said veteran rights activist Sister Mary John Mananzan on Facebook. 

Ellen Tordesillas of fact check outfit VERA Files said it recognised the "difficult and dangerous environment under which Philippine journalists operate".

Ressa, who co-founded news website Rappler in 2012, has been a staunch critic of Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte and his deadly drug war. 

For years, the former CNN bureau chief has endured what media advocates say is a grinding series of criminal charges, investigations and online attacks against her and Rappler.

The Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines said it hoped the Nobel Prize would focus attention on the plight of Philippine journalists who "routinely face online harassment".

"Local newsrooms face pressure to self-censor, and regional journalists remain the most vulnerable to violence, including detention and killings," the association said. 

The Philippines is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists and most of the killers go free.

The International Federation of Journalists in March ranked the Philippines as the third most dangerous country for journalists, after Iraq and Mexico.

The Brussels-based group said 159 media workers were killed in the country between 1990 and 2020.

One journalist has been killed this year, Reporters Without Borders said, compared with four last year. 

Ressa's award showed "repression does not pay", said Luz Rimban of the Asian Center for Journalism.

"Muzzle the press and file case after case, you only scare some journalists and some news organisations," Rimban told AFP. 

She added that the award was "like the world telling Duterte, hands off Philippine journalism". (AFP)