The critical message of Maria Ressa’s historic Nobel Peace Prize win

By Atty. Anfred P. Panes

Maria Ressa, more popularly known as the Chief Executive Officer of Rappler – a digital media company claimed to be driven by uncompromising journalism, has recently been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Rappler has been long imputed with a string of cases including cyber libel, tax evasion, and even issues relating to the foreign ownership of the digital company.  The commonality among the aforementioned suits is the institution of the same under the current administration. Whether this is purely a matter of coincidence, a matter of correlation, or causation, I leave it up to you.

It is rather an astonishing yet achievable feat for Maria Ressa to be honored as one of the Nobel Peace Prize laureates for 2021 for her “efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace”.  The same acknowledgment is anchored to the United Nation’s recognition of the role of a free and independent media as a cornerstone of democracy.  Now, this I daresay, should not be deemed a causation of the current administration but simply correlation.  In a way, the award was earned by Ressa, and Rappler, in its efforts to expose the atrocities of the current administration and its attempts to silence its dissenters – Ressa included. Interestingly, therefore, it would be both accurate and inaccurate to credit Ressa’s win due to the “efforts” of the government.

Notably, as long as the press is alive, as long as objectively responsible journalism continues to thrive, and as long as the voice of the people continues to express legitimate dissent, though muffled in the guise of prosecution by the system, the pillars of democracy remain standing: scathed yet steadfast.  For all intents and purposes, it should be the peddlers of fake news and disinformation who must be silenced, never that of the free press.

The Nobel Committee is not merely an entity known for ceremoniously conferring awards.  In this context, it is an entity which recognizes the universality of freedom of expression, speech, and press. The act of emerging victorious despite all the bureaucratic harassments is a heroic act to embody the essence of democracy in a virtually tyrannical government – an act worthy of emulation and honor.

The Nobel Peace Prize for Maria Ressa is more than just a statement of merits and recognition.  It conveys a powerful message of bravery, courage, and tenacity to expose the truth amidst the hostile response of the prevailing politeia.  Indeed, the award radiates an inspiring strength, not just only a vindication, to journalists and other media practitioners towards a more responsible exposition of truth in a time when the fundamental freedom of expression through legitimate dissent and democracy is under siege.

The author is the founding partner of A. Panes Law and Professorial Lecturer of the USA College of Law.