Congratulations to Maria Ressa and the Nobel Foundation

CMFR JOINS freedom loving Filipinos in celebrating the choice of Filipino journalist Maria Ressa as a recipient of the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize. The recognition is for more than her pioneering work as CEO and editor of Rappler, a leading online news company in Asia.  

Ressa has been under attack by the Duterte administration for Rappler’s critical reporting on the thousands killed in the government’s “war on drugs.” She has remained steadfast, standing up to the numerous cases filed against her, and not giving an inch to the pressure of state power. 

The award which she shares with Russian journalist, Dimitri Muratod, is about more than their personal stories. It compels the world to focus its attention on the state of press freedom around the world and the decline of democracy.  

The existential threat of the pandemic may have sidelined legitimate concerns, such as the peril of climate change for one. There has also been scant effort to follow up on the take-over of strongman regimes in countries around the world. The decline of democracy has provoked academic scrutiny, but it is not a burning issue in the public square. 

The public exchange has pointed with impatience at the failure of democracy to eradicate poverty, end ethnic strife and other crises – driving the vote for a Duterte, Modi or Bolsonaro and other leaders who gained power through free and fair elections.  

It has been left to media watchdog organizations to assess the collective impact of these governments on the state of the press in different parts of the world. 

The control through messaging has stifled the free flow of free expression and the practice of a free press; a pattern that persists and may yet become a global norm.

The Nobel Prize Committee has taken the first major step to turn the tide.

CMFR congratulates Maria Ressa and hails the wisdom of the Nobel Foundation. By honoring her stand against tyranny, the prize has also confirmed the falsehood in the Duterte regime’s claim that it respects press freedom. 

That claim flies in the face of the facts. 

Not only Rappler and its reporters have been harassed, threatened and barred from covering events of public interest. Journalists, lawyers, human rights defenders and activists have been physically and digitally threatened, red tagged, assaulted, killed. The closure of  major TV and radio network ABS-CBN also robbed many poor Filipinos living in remote areas of their only access to the outside world.

The honor given to Maria Ressa should embolden Filipinos to defend and protect press freedom as it is their personal and collective freedom to enjoy and claim to its fullness. As free men and women, their sovereign will must reclaim their democracy as their own.