No statement from Palace yet on journalist Ressa, first Filipino to receive Nobel Peace Prize

Franco Luna - Philstar.com
No statement from Palace yet on journalist Ressa, first Filipino to receive Nobel Peace Prize
Journalist Maria Ressa (front L) leaves her office after she was arrested in Manila on February 13, 2019.
AFP / Maria Tan

MANILA, Philippines — Two days after Filipino journalist Maria Ressa made history as the first Filipino to receive a Nobel Peace Prize, the Malacañang Palace has not issued a statement of any kind. 

President Rodrigo Duterte's administration had barred reporters of Rappler, which Ressa co-founded in 2012, from covering the chief executive's events.

Duterte himself has also publicly attacked the news outlet in his press conferences and nightly addresses, accusing them of peddling fake news for their critical coverage of his so-called war on drugs. 

Earlier in July, Malacañang praised gymnast Hidilyn Diaz for bagging the Philippines' first Olympic gold medal. Duterte later on urged Diaz to "let bygones be bygones" after claiming in 2019 that Diaz was among those involved in a plot to destabilize the government.

Diaz even received the Presidential Medal of Merit, a unique recognition the government awards to Filipinos who gain "prestige for the country in an international event, in the fields of literature, the sciences, the arts, entertainment, and other civilian fields of endeavor that foster national pride."

Ressa, whose outlet has long been critical of the Duterte administration, is the first Filipino to win the Nobel Peace Prize — an award previously bestowed on names like Martin Luther King, Jr., Mother Teresa and Nelson Mandela. 

Kremlin welcomes Peace Prize for journalist that criticizes it

Berit Reiss-Andersen, the chairwoman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, said that Ressa was representative of "journalists who stand up for this ideal in a world in which democracy and freedom of the press face increasingly adverse conditions."

Rappler has "focused critical attention on the Duterte regime's controversial, murderous anti-drug campaign," Reiss-Andersen said. 

The Nobel Peace Prize of 2021 was also awarded to Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov, for whom the Kremlin has already issued a congratulatory statement despite his Novaya Gazeta newspaper often criticizing Russian authorities as well. 

"We can congratulate Dmitry Muratov," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters according to reports by Reuters.

"He persistently works in accordance with his own ideals, he is devoted to them, he is talented, he is brave."

Press freedom under siege in the Philippines

But closer to home, President Rodrigo Duterte, recognized by the Paris-based media watchdog Reporters Without Borders for being a "press freedom predator," has made it clear he has an ax to grind with critical media.

The tough-talking head of state himself earlier said he would see to it that the franchise of broadcast giant ABS-CBN would not be renewed, a threat he later made good on.

His government, particularly the Presidential Task Force on Media Security, continues to reject the notion of weakened press freedom, asserting that press freedom is not only "alive and well" under his rule but also “has generally improved since 2009, especially after President Duterte came to office.” 

At his inauguration in 2016, the president also said: "Just because you’re a journalist you are not exempted from assassination, if you’re a son of a bitch." 

"We commend them for defending these freedoms in increasingly challenging conditions — in Ressa's case, these [have] included a raft of cases and legal proceedings — and are proud to be in the community of independent journalists ready to hold the line with them," the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines said of Ressa's award. 

"We hope this award will shine more light on those who put the spotlight on the truth at a time when basic freedoms and democracy are under attack." 

— with a report by Agence France-Presse 






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