CBCP: Ressa's Nobel win a reminder of journalists' role in democracy

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
CBCP: Ressa's Nobel win a reminder of journalists' role in democracy
Philippine journalist Maria Ressa (2nd R), is escorted by police after an arrest warrant was served, shortly after arriving at the international airport in Manila on March 29, 2019.

MANILA, Philippines — The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines has joined in congratulating Filipina journalist Maria Ressa for winning the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of the crucial role that journalists play in democracy and in building a culture of dialogue.

The CBCP, in a statement signed by Archbishop Romulo Valles, congratulated Rappler CEO Ressa for bagging the Nobel Peace Prize "for her efforts 'to safeguard freedom of expression.'"

"Our recent Popes have on occasion highlighted the important role that the press [plays] in gauging the health of a healthy democratic society. It is not a surprise, then, that the Church ‘find the right esteem for your work and the recognition of the freedom of the press,’" it added.

Ressa and Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2021.

The CBCP noted that, across the world, "journalistic work has become more and more difficult because of the level of disinformation and fake news that continue to spread through the means of social communications."

Quoting in part a May 2019 message of Pope Francis, the CBCP stressed that the vocation and mission of the press are not only to contribute to the search for truth but also to build a culture of dialogue.

"This important recognition — the first for a Filipino — would hopefully strengthen our people’s conviction to build a nation where journalism is free, at the service of truth, goodness and justice," they added.

Palace finally congratulates Ressa

Messages of congratulations and support have poured in from across the world since Friday, when the award was announced. 

At home, it took the Palace three days to comment on it and state media did not immediately report the Norwegian Nobel Committee's decision to give the award to Ressa and to Muratov.

"It’s a victory for a Filipina and we are very happy with that. There is no crab mentality here in the Malacañang," presidential spokesperson Harry Roque finally said at a press briefing on Monday.

But the presidential spokesperson also pointed out that Ressa was convicted on cyber libel and is facing a slew of other cases in Philippine courts—charges that Ressa asserted are politically motivated.

Roque also said the Palace agrees with the statement issued by national artist F. Sionil Jose griping over the award, which he said Ressa does not deserve. He also claimed that "the Philippine press is alive and well."

Duterte had repeatedly vowed to block the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise. In December 2019, he warned: “I will see to it that you’re out.”

In February, nine months since ABS-CBN went off air, Duterte said that even if Congress grants the network a new franchise, he will not allow the National Telecommunications Commission to issue it a permit to operate.

Roque claimed that "no one has ever been censored" in the country and noted that Congress — dominated by Duterte allies and quick to support his legislative agenda — has the power to grant franchises.

"As of now po press freedom is alive and the proof is even the Nobel Prize award given to Maria Ressa, Roque said of the award, which recognized "efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace."

Berit Ress-Andersen, chairwoman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, said Ressa and Muratov "are representatives of all journalists who stand up for this ideal in a world in which democracy and freedom of the press face increasingly adverse conditions."

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