Tuesday, October 26

A Nobel Prize for press freedom

The well-deserved Nobel Peace Prize for the efforts of Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov to resist and continue their work in such hostile conditions comes at a dramatic moment for press freedom around the world, increasingly precarious. In dozens of countries, such as Rodrigo Duterte’s Philippines and Vladimir Putin’s Russia, practicing journalism is a survival effort.

In the Americas, Nicaraguan journalists, many of them driven into exile, resist as best they can the attacks of the Ortega-Murillo regime, which on its way to caudillismo and with the November presidential elections in sight does not cease in its efforts to drown the press. In Venezuela, decades of Chavismo have done everything possible to undermine free journalism, which resists despite everything. The Cuban strategy of repression and harassment is the model of Daniel Ortega and Nicolás Maduro, who see the press as a threat to their totalitarian aspirations, as “a weed that must be stripped and eliminated,” as wrote recently the Cuban journalist Abraham Jiménez Enoa on the renewed repression in his country. In El Salvador, Nayib Bukele threatens to follow the same path, which inspires politicians of different affiliations.

The list of journalists from other regions living in similar circumstances could extend several pages. Authorities in Belarus continue to detain journalists covering protests that began more than a year ago. In Afghanistan, the stumbling exile of thousands of journalists and media workers coexists with the uncertainty and fear of those who remain in the country under the Taliban regime. For six months, the French journalist Olivier Dubois He disappeared in Mali. In Myanmar, the repression that followed the military coup sent dozens of journalists to jail and many others into exile or underground. In Europe, Poland and Hungary encourage attacks that undermine the sustainability of the press. We cannot forget the murders of Daphne Caruana Galizia in Malta and Jan Kuciak in Slovenia, nor the memory of David Beriain and Roberto Fraile, murdered in Burkina Faso last May. Neither is the third anniversary of the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul. The international community has not yet managed to provide a coherent response to this brutal crime. Since 1992 at least 1,416 journalists have been murdered, according to data from the Committee to Protect Journalists.

These are just a few examples of a situation linked to the deterioration of democracy and its institutions. Free journalism, worth the redundancy, is a precondition for democracy and peace, as the committee that awards the Nobel Peace Prize has pointed out. Thousands of journalists around the world bear the enormous personal cost of repression and attacks on freedom, which they defend every day with their determination to inform and share their work without restriction. Governments and their institutions have to support them with measures that protect them and with visas that allow them to continue when they have no choice but to exile. After the celebrations have passed, María Ressa, Dmitry Muratov and many like them will continue in their endeavor and not even the most adverse circumstances will be able to silence them. The Nobel Peace Prize is a recognition of this exemplary effort.

Carlos Martínez de la Serna is director of programs at the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).


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