When Max Pensky hosted courageous Philippine journalist Maria Ressa for a talk as part of Binghamton University’s Institute for Genocide and Mass Atrocity Prevention (I-GMAP), little did he know that he would wake up the next day to find out that Ressa had just been named the latest Nobel Prize winner.
“In recognizing Maria, the Nobel committee now sees that anti-democratic leaders who want to muzzle press freedom don’t just use the old tools – arrests, detention, death threats, closing media outlets,” said Pensky. “Now they depend on social media, too. Maria’s courageous work in the Philippines calls out strongman Rodrigo Duterte and Facebook for using fake news, troll armies, and online harassment, combined with “old school” government intimidation, in a new, toxic mix. Maria’s award is for letting the world know how this actually works in her own country, and warning us that we all have to face it if we want press freedom of our own.”
“This year’s Nobel Peace Prize is important and timely. Freedom of the media is now, as stated by the President of the Norwegian Nobel Committee Berit Reiss-Andersen, challenged all over the world. The committee highlights this by choosing two particularly significant examples in very dissimilar situations, both developing in authoritarian directions. The prize hopefully strengthens the possibilities of the two journalists and their colleagues to continue to work according to the high editorial standards they have set for themselves and that genuine news coverage requires.
From a peace perspective, accurate and reliable news coverage is central for assessing the dangers of war, civil war, and repression, as well as for peace negotiations and making the right decisions. In a world full of fabricated news, it is particularly important to protect independent reporting.
This year’s prize expands on Nobel’s idea of giving the prize to efforts contributing to “fraternity among nations.” Media now has a different significance than in 1901 when the first prize was awarded. Correct, autonomous reporting is always central for peace and security within and among nations.”