Rappler CEO and Executive Editor Maria Ressa, right, stands in front of reporters as she arrives at the Court of Tax Appeals in Metro Manila, Philippines

Nobel Peace Prize is ‘a testament to how truth prevails,’ Rappler journalist says

The Norwegian Nobel Committee has given the Nobel Peace Prize to journalists for the first time since 1935. Sofia Tomacruz, who works at Rappler with one of this year’s two winners, Maria Ressa, joined The World’s host Marco Werman to discuss the significance of the announcement.

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The Norwegian Nobel Committee has awarded this year’s Nobel Peace Prize to two journalists: Maria Ressa from the Philippines and Dmitry Muratov from Russia. It’s the first time the honor has gone to a journalist since 1935.

Related: Nobel Prize winner Abdulrazak Gurnah: An introduction to the man and his writing

Ressa was cited for her work with Rappler, the news site she co-founded in 2012, which has relentlessly and bravely put the policies of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte under the spotlight, including the large-scale killings linked to a police campaign against drugs.

And Muratov said he sees the prize as an award to his newspaper, Novaya Gazeta, which he helped found in 1993. It’s the same newspaper where journalist Anna Politkovskaya worked, covering the bloody conflict in Chechnya before she was killed in 2006.

Related: Only 20 Nobels in the sciences have gone to women. Why?

Sofia Tomacruz works as a journalist at Rappler. She talked to The World’s host Marco Werman about what the award means for her colleagues and journalists everywhere.  

Marco Werman: Congratulations, first of all. What is your reaction to today’s news?
Sofia Tomacruz: Thank you so much. You know the news is such good news. It came after a really long week here in the Philippines. I’m not sure if you’re aware, but election season is in full swing. So, it was such a surprise for us. I mean, not only for Maria, but for us, too. But, really it could not have come at a better time.

Related: Maria Ressa says journalism is democracy’s ‘first line of defense’ and Rappler won’t back down

It has been a long week there. We’re covering the final list of candidates today, in fact, on the show. What does it mean to you that the Nobel Committee has awarded the Peace Prize to journalists this year?
I think that the fact that the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to journalists this year is just really a recognition of journalism’s role in the world today, especially at this time. In the past few years, you’ve seen how important it is to defend press freedom and hold the line, as Maria would say, against those who want to weaken that. And no matter how small or unassuming their actions may be, it’s so important that we shine a light on people who try to silence us. And the award really highlights the struggles of journalists, I think, not only in the Philippines, but across the world. So, really, this prize, like I said, just could not have come at a better time.
Briefly, what are the ways Rappler and Maria Ressa have been silenced or attempted to have been silenced over the past few years?
Right, so, especially under the current administration, there’s been just several cases thrown at Rappler, in particular against Maria Ressa. And I think in total there have been about 11 cases, seven still active against her. So, you can just imagine how much time that takes and how much time it takes away from us, reporters, when it comes to doing our jobs?
And are those seven cases kind of affecting your ability to keep Rappler going?
You know, Maria and the rest of our bosses do such a good job at making sure that we keep doing the work that we’re doing. And I think it just really goes back to what Maria would always tell us, the way that you fight back is how you do your job as a journalist. And they really made it a point to drill that into us every day, and I think something that we like to remind ourselves of as well. So, Maria has always taught us that the way you fight back is just by doing your work and doing it to the best of your abilities.

Related: Duterte’s ‘weaponization of the law’ is a threat to democracy, says journalist Maria Ressa

The prize, as we know, went to Maria Ressa and Rappler, but also to Dmitry Muratov of Novaya Gazeta in Moscow. Generally, what is the relationship between Rappler and any other organizations around the globe doing the same kind of risky journalism you do?
I think the relationship would be that in Russia and in the Philippines, there are many similarities. Both media industries in both countries are being attacked. Both are being targeted by the government. And so, you know, it’s also something that Maria says, right? You can’t just speak out when you’re affected. You need to speak out even if it’s your peers, even if it’s somebody far away, because the moment that you allow it to happen in one place, then it gives permission for other leaders and for other people to do it, to weaken a free press in other places. And so, we need to protect one another, no matter how far away we are from each other, and what happens in one place, it won’t stop there. The prize being given to both Maria and Dmitry, it’s really a testament to how truth prevails and, even in places that are trying to stifle the truth, it always come out.
Has there been any reaction from the Philippine government to the Nobel Peace Prize for Rappler and Maria Ressa?
No, radio silence so far.

This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.AP contributed to this report.

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