Philippine president congratulates journalist Maria Ressa on Nobel Prize
MANILA, Philippines — Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s office on Monday congratulated journalist Maria Ressa for winning the Nobel Peace Prize, calling it “a victory for a Filipina” for which it was happy to see.
Ressa, founder of Philippine news site Rappler, and Dmitry Muratov shared the 2021 prize after braving the wrath of the leaders of the Philippines and Russia to expose corruption and misrule.
Ressa has been fighting multiple legal challenges in courts related to Rappler’s dogged investigative reporting of Duterte’s government, its bloody war on drugs, and its use of social media to target opponents. She is currently on bail pending an appeal against a conviction last year in a cyber libel case, for which she faces up to six years in prison.
“It’s a victory for a Filipina and we’re very happy for that kasi wala naman pong utak talangka dito sa (because no one has a crab mentality here in) Malacañang,” he said in a regular Palace briefing with a seeming hint of ridicule, replying to a question on what Ressa’s award meant for the government.
“Of course it is true there are individuals who feel Maria Ressa still has to clear her name before the courts,” he said, in the first comment on Friday’s award from Duterte’s camp.
The firebrand leader has described Rappler, launched in 2012, as a “fake news outlet and a tool of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, which Ressa has dismissed as nonsense.
The Prize was hailed by many in the Philippines, with critics saying it is a rebuke on Duterte, a frequent critic of Rappler.
It was the first Nobel Peace Prize for the Philippines and the first for journalists since the German Carl von Ossietzky won it in 1935. The Kremlin congratulated Muratov on Friday, describing the investigative journalist as talented and brave.
Asked on Monday what her message would be to Duterte, Ressa urged him not to pursue a divide and conquer approach.
“I beg you, unite this nation. Don’t tear us apart,” she said in an interview with news channel ANC.
While Malacañang congratulated Ressa on her Nobel Peace Prize, it still insisted that press freedom in the Philippines was not under attack because “no one has ever been censored in the Philippines.”
Roque also said Ressa’s Nobel Peace Prize was “not a slap on the government.”
He also said the closure of media giant ABS-CBN cannot be blamed on the House of Representatives, which is dominated by administration allies, and that such a decision did not come from the Executive department.
“It is not a slap on the government; it was made by private individuals in Norway. We respect their decision,” Roque said.
“There is no slap there because as everyone knows, no one has ever been censored in the Philippines. A journalist who claims a chilling effect should not be a journalist,” he added.
According to the Nobel Prize organizers, Ressa and Muratov were recognized for their “efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace.”
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