Live Updates: Nobel Peace Prize Goes to 2 Journalists For Protecting Free Expression

The Nobel Committee awarded the 2021 prize to Maria Ressa and Dmitri A. Muratov for their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, “a precondition for democracy and lasting peace.”

LiveUpdated Oct. 8, 2021, 6:04 a.m. ETOct. 8, 2021, 6:04 a.m. ET

The Nobel Committee awarded the 2021 prize to Maria Ressa and Dmitri A. Muratov for their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, “a precondition for democracy and lasting peace.”

Here’s what you need to know:

Journalists Maria Ressa and Dmitri Muratov are awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Philippine journalist Maria Ressa has incurred President Duterte’s wrath.

The newspaper Dmitri Muratov founded has had six reporters killed for their work.

Maria Ressa is only the 18th woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize in its 126-year history.

Some of the Nobel committee’s previous picks have been called into question.

Nobel honorees in pictures: From Roosevelt to King, the Dalai Lama to Malala.

Dmitry Muratov in Moscow in 2019.Credit…Dmitry Serebryakov/Associated Press
Maria Ressa in Manila in February.Credit…Eloisa Lopez/Reuters

The journalists Maria Ressa and Dmitri A. Muratov were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which the Nobel Committee described as a precondition for democracy and lasting peace.

The two were recognized for “their courageous fight for freedom of expression in the Philippines and Russia,” with the committee noting that they were part of a broader struggle to protect press freedoms.

“They are representatives of all journalists who stand up for this ideal in a world in which democracy and freedom of the press face increasingly adverse conditions,” the committee wrote.

Ms. Ressa has worked to expose the “abuse of power, use of violence and growing authoritarianism in her native country, the Philippines.”

She is a co-founder of Rappler, a digital media company for investigative journalism, which she still heads.

Since going live in January 2012, Rappler has become one of the country’s most popular and influential media platforms, mixing reporting with calls for social activism. Today, the site attracts an average of 40 million page views and 12 million unique visitors a month, figures that more than double during the Philippines’ election season.

Reporters for the organization have exposed government corruption and researched the financial holdings and potential conflicts of interest of top political figures, working tirelessly to expose President Rodrigo Duterte’s controversial, violent antidrug campaign.

Speaking on Rappler’s Facebook Live platform, Ms. Ressa said she hoped the award was a “recognition of how difficult it is to be a journalist today.”

“This is for you, Rappler,” she said, her voice breaking slightly, adding that she hopes for “energy for all of us to continue the battle for facts.”

Mr. Muratov has defended freedom of speech in Russia for decades, working under increasingly difficult conditions.

He was one of the founders of the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta in 1993 and he has been the newspaper’s editor-in-chief since 1995.

Novaya Gazeta “is the most independent newspaper in Russia today, with a fundamentally critical attitude towards power,” the committee wrote. “The newspaper’s fact-based journalism and professional integrity have made it an important source of information on censurable aspects of Russian society rarely mentioned by other media.”

The newspaper has continued to publish despite harassment, threats, violence and murder.

Since the newspaper’s start, six of its journalists have been killed, including Anna Politkovskaya who wrote revealing articles on the war in Chechnya, according to the committee.

“Despite the killings and threats, editor-in-chief Muratov has refused to abandon the newspaper’s independent policy. He has consistently defended the right of journalists to write anything they want about whatever they want, as long as they comply with the professional and ethical standards of journalism,” the committee wrote.

The Nobel committee chose from 329 candidates, one of the largest pools in the 126-year history of the prize. Among those who had been considered favorites for this year included climate change activists, political dissidents and scientists whose work helped fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

In its citation, the committee said that defending journalism was essential to ensuring peace and stability.

“Free, independent and fact-based journalism serves to protect against abuse of power, lies and war propaganda,” the committee said. “Without freedom of expression and freedom of the press, it will be difficult to successfully promote fraternity between nations, disarmament and a better world order to succeed in our time.”

Journalist Maria Ressa, right, in Quezon, Philippines, in 2018.Credit…Bullit Marquez/Associated Press

Early in the afternoon of May 7, Maria Ressa sat before a couple of hundred people in the lobby of Palma Hall, the dilapidated social-sciences and philosophy building at the University of the Philippines in Quezon City, just north of Manila. The attendees, many of them students, had packed themselves shoulder to shoulder on yellow chairs; hand-held fans stirred the torpid air as a drizzle fell on the palm trees in the courtyard. It was six days before the Philippines’ midterm elections, and the country’s usual mix of soap-opera politics and melodramatic conspiracy theories had reached a new intensity.

Two weeks earlier, The Manila Times, the country’s oldest English-language newspaper, published a list of writers, editors and lawyers who, the paper asserted, were plotting a coup against President Rodrigo Duterte. The newspaper called it the “Matrix” and placed Ressa — CNN’s former Southeast Asia bureau chief and the editor of an online news site called Rappler — near the center of the plot.

Since it went live in January 2012, Rappler has become one of the country’s most popular and influential media platforms, mixing reporting with calls for social activism. Rappler’s reporters, most of whom are in their 20s, have been especially critical of Duterte, investigating his extrajudicial killing campaign against people suspected of dealing or using drugs, documenting the spread of government disinformation on Facebook and reporting on malfeasance among his top advisers. As a result, the site has incurred Duterte’s wrath and been targeted by his loyalists; Ressa has been forced to increase her personal security.

Ms Ressa, 56, has been straddling two worlds, her birthplace and the United States, for most of her life. That dual identity, as much as anything else, has led her to see the world as she does, and those views have put her in a dangerous position.

After graduating in 1986, she was awarded a Fulbright fellowship to study political theater in Manila.

Ressa’s return to her native country came as it was transitioning away from authoritarianism and adopting liberal, democratic ideas from the United States. CNN was looking for a fluent English speaker to report on the transformation and hired Ressa. She became a fixture of the network’s Asia coverage, on the front lines of the fight between democratic ideas and authoritarianism.

Ressa was interested not only in how democratic ideals flourished but also in how they died, and how extremist ideology spread like a toxin through a society.

— Joshua Hammer

A view of a memorial room in the offices of the Novaya Gazeta newspaper which was set to commemorate investigative reporter Anna Politkovskaya in Moscow in October.Credit…Alexander Zemlianichenko/Associated Press

During the tenure of President Vladimir V. Putin, six reporters for Novaya Gazeta, the newspaper that Dmitri A. Muratov co-founded in 1993, have been killed for their work. Most prominent was Anna Politkovskaya, an investigative journalist who was shot and killed on Oct. 7, 2006.

Ms. Politkovskaya, a vocal critic of Mr. Putin and his policies in the Chechen war, was shot in the elevator to her apartment building in Moscow. While a court convicted several men for carrying out the assassination, the authorities left unanswered the question of who organized it. Mr. Putin, speaking soon after her death, denied any role by saying Ms. Politkovskaya’s death had created a bigger problem for Russia because of international criticism than her life and work as an investigative journalist.

Founded in 1993, Novaya Gazeta has become the highest-profile independent newspaper in Russia for social and political affairs. The newspaper has three main owners: the last Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev, who used proceeds from his Nobel Peace Prize to finance the venture; Aleksandr Y. Lebedev, a former KGB agent turned banker and critic of the rise of a new police state: and the newspaper staff, who own shares.

In one of the early murders, the investigative reporter and member of Parliament, Yuri Shchekochikhin died of a mysterious and painful illness that caused the epidermis, or upper layer of skin, to slough off, in a rare symptom caused by some drug allergies but which Novaya Gazeta newspaper concluded in its own investigation was poisoning.

Mr. Shchekochikhin became ill days before he planned to travel to the United States to share information with American law enforcement about suspected corruption and money laundering at a furniture importing business, the Three Whales, linked to the Federal Security Service, the successor agency to the K.G.B., touching a nerve on an important trend of the security services moving into business. His autopsy results remain classified.

In 2009, Russian nationalists shot to death another of the newspaper’s journalists, Anastasia Boburova, on a sidewalk in the capital together with a human rights lawyer.

In another high-profile killing in 2009, the human rights activist Natalia Estemirova was kidnapped in the Chechen capital of Grozny and subsequently killed. Ms. Estemirova cooperated with Novaya Gazeta in cataloging killings, torture and abductions in Chechnya and linked them to the region’s leader, Ramzan A. Kadyrov. Ms. Estemirova continued this work even after the death of Ms. Politkovskaya in 2006, with whom she had begun her collaboration with the Novaya Gazeta newspaper.

In recent years, the newspaper came under pressure after publishing an investigation linking the director of the state oil company Rosneft and a longtime Putin ally, Igor Sechin, to a yacht worth $180 million called the “St. Olga,” likely after Mr. Sechin’s new wife Olga Sechina. Also in recent years, the newspaper’s reporters have broken stories investigating the deaths of Russian soldiers in eastern Ukraine.

Their leading reporter on the war, Pavel Kanygin, was kidnapped and beaten by separatists, but nonetheless returned for on-the-ground reporting for the newspaper’s investigation into the shoot-down of a civilian airliner over Ukraine in 2014.

Former president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia meeting with President Obama in 2010 in Washington. Ms. Johnson Sirleaf was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011.Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

In receiving the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday, Philippine journalist Maria Ressa became only the 18th woman to be selected for the award in its 126-year history.

With half the world made up of women, the obvious question arises: why have so few been granted the committee’s most prestigious prize and, more broadly, been generally underrepresented across the Nobel prizes?

Addressing the criticism, in 2017, the Nobel committee acknowledged its poor track record.

“We are disappointed looking at the larger perspective that more women have not been awarded,” Goran Hansson, vice chair of the board of directors of the Nobel Foundation,

“Part of it is that we go back in time to identify discoveries,” he said. “We have to wait until they have been verified and validated, before we can award the prize. There was an even larger bias against women then. There were far fewer women scientists if you go back 20 or 30 years.”

But he acknowledged other problems, including the way people are considered for prizes. Starting in 2018, he said, they would take steps to address the imbalance.

“I hope that in five years or 10 years, we will see a very different situation,” he said.

A total of 109 individuals have received the Nobel Peace Prize, which has also been awarded to organizations. The first woman to receive the prize was Bertha von Suttner, an Austrian writer who was a leading figure in a nascent pacifist movement in Europe. She was recognized in 1905, two years after Marie Curie became the first woman to receive a Nobel Prize, in physics.

It would be another 26 years before another woman was selected for the award: the American Jane Addams, regarded as the founder of modern social work and an advocate for the concerns of children and mothers. She shared the 1931 prize with Nicholas Murray Butler, then the head of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Other women to receive the honor include Mother Teresa in 1979; the legal reformer Shirin Ebadi of Iran in 2003; the Kenyan environmentalist Wangari Maathai in 2004 and the education activist Malala Yousafzai in 2014.

In 2011, three women shared the award: Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the former president of Liberia; Leymah Gbowee, a peace activist from Liberia; and Tawakkol Karman, a journalist from Yemen who became the face of the “Arab Spring” uprising in her country.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed of Ethiopia was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019.Credit…Alex Welsh for The New York Times

For more than a century, the annual announcement of the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize has generated global fascination, making the award a byword for selflessness and integrity.

Some of the Norwegian Nobel Committee’s selections, however, have also created controversies that have cast a shadow over the award.

In 2019, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed of Ethiopia was honored for his “efforts to achieve peace and international cooperation,” especially his initiative to resolve a long-running border conflict with Eritrea. In his Nobel laureate’s lecture, Mr. Abiy spoke of the need to “plant seeds of love, forgiveness and reconciliation in the hearts and minds of our citizens.”

Two years later, Mr. Abiy has faced condemnation from human rights groups for unleashing a brutal military offensive in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region. Pro-government forces have been accused of massacres, sexual assault and ethnic cleansing, and United Nations officials have said the fighting has worsened a famine in which hundreds of thousands are going hungry.

Even at the time of his award, some experts questioned the wisdom of granting the prize to a young leader who had only been in office for a year, and whose commitment to peace had not been tested. Asked by Al Jazeera in late 2019 whether Mr. Abiy deserved the award, the Nobel committee declined to address concerns about human rights, saying in a statement: “The Norwegian Nobel Committee hopes the peace agreement will help to bring about positive change for the entire populations of Ethiopia and Eritrea.”

To some, the questions recalled those raised about another young, unproven leader: President Barack Obama, who was awarded the prize in 2009 after less than a year in office. The committee honored Mr. Obama for “extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.”

Three years later, after Mr. Obama had led the overthrow of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi in Libya, surged U.S. troops into Afghanistan and escalated U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen, the author and security analyst Peter Bergen described him as “one of the most militarily aggressive American leaders in decades.”

Other selections have also generated criticism. Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger was awarded the prize in 1973 for his efforts to negotiate an end to the war in Vietnam, despite his alleged involvement in the devastating U.S. bombing campaign in Cambodia. Aung San Suu Kyi was given the award in 1991 for her opposition to military rule in Myanmar; two decades later, she is better known as the elected leader who defended the army’s brutal offensive against Rohingya Muslims, and who was ousted in a coup earlier this year.

The controversies have dogged the committee, which according to Nobel rules cannot withdraw a prize once it is given. Some commentators have called for the committee, which is made up of five members appointed by Norway’s Parliament, and often include retired politicians, to resign and for international experts to take their place.

“The Nobel name carries international weight and a committee with world-class capabilities should protect it,” Kjetil Tronvoll, director of Peace and Conflict studies at Bjorknes University College in Norway, wrote this year in the Guardian.

Credit…From Left: Frank Vinken/Mpi Fuer Kohlenforschung Epa-Efe, via Shutterstock; John Minchillo, via Associated Press

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded on Wednesday to Benjamin List and David W.C. MacMillan for their development of a new tool to build molecules, work that has spurred advances in pharmaceutical research and lessened the impact of chemistry on the environment.

Their work, while unseen by consumers, is an essential part in many leading industries and is crucial for research.

Chemists are among those tasked with constructing molecules that can form elastic and durable materials, store energy in batteries or inhibit the progression of diseases. That work requires catalysts, which are substances that control and accelerate chemical reactions without becoming part of the final product.

In 2000, Dr. List and Dr. MacMillan — working independently of each other — developed a new type of catalysis that reduced waste and allowed for novel ways to construct molecules. It is called asymmetric organocatalysis and builds upon small organic molecules.

Catalysis is what makes plastics possible; it also allows the manufacture of products such as food flavorings to target the taste buds and perfumes to tickle the nose. But until the discovery by the Nobel laureates, some of the catalysts used by chemists could be harmful to the environment or lead to vast amounts of waste.

The concept developed by Dr. List, a German chemist who is director at the Max Planck Institute for Coal Research, and Dr. MacMillan, a Scottish chemist and a professor at Princeton University, offered a solution. The new process paved the way for creating molecules that can serve purposes as varied as making lightweight running shoes and inhibiting the progress of disease in the body.

“Why did no one come up with this simple, green and cheap concept for asymmetric catalysis earlier?” the Nobel committee wrote. “This question has many answers. One is that the simple ideas are often the most difficult to imagine.”

The Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to Syukuro Manabe, Klaus Hasselmann and Giorgio Parisi on Tuesday.Credit…Pontus Lundahl/TT News Agency, via Associated Press

Three scientists received the Nobel Prize in Physics on Tuesday for work that is essential to understanding how the Earth’s climate is changing, pinpointing the effect of human behavior on those changes and ultimately predicting the impact of global warming.

The winners were Syukuro Manabe of Princeton University, Klaus Hasselmann of the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg, Germany, and Giorgio Parisi of the Sapienza University of Rome.

Others have received Nobel Prizes for their work on climate change, most notably former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, but the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said this is the first time the Physics prize has been awarded specifically to a climate scientist.

Complex physical systems, such as the climate, are often defined by their disorder. This year’s winners helped bring understanding to what seemed like chaos by describing those systems and predicting their long-term behavior.

In 1967, Dr. Manabe developed a computer model that confirmed the critical connection between the primary greenhouse gas — carbon dioxide — and warming in the atmosphere. His later models, which explored connections between conditions in the ocean and atmosphere, were crucial to recognizing how increased melting of the Greenland ice sheet could affect ocean circulation in the North Atlantic, said Michael Mann, a climate scientist at Pennsylvania State University.

“He has contributed fundamentally to our understanding of human-caused climate change and dynamical mechanisms,” Dr. Mann said.

About a decade after Dr. Manabe’s foundational work, Dr. Hasselmann created a model that connected short-term climate phenomena such as rain to longer-term climate like ocean and atmospheric currents. Dr. Mann said that work laid the basis for attribution studies, a field of scientific inquiry that seeks to establish the influence of climate change on specific events like droughts, heat waves and intense rainstorms.

Dr. Parisi is credited with the discovery of the interplay of disorder and fluctuations in physical systems, including everything from a tiny collection of atoms to the atmosphere of an entire planet.

All three scientists have been working to understand the complex natural systems that have been driving climate change for decades, and their discoveries have provided the scaffolding on which predictions about climate are built.

The winners of the 2021 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine David Julius, left, and Ardem Patapoutian.Credit…Jonathan Nackstran/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded jointly on Monday to David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian, two scientists who independently discovered key mechanisms of how people sense heat, cold, touch and their own bodily movements.

Dr. Julius, a professor of physiology at the University of California, San Francisco, used a key ingredient in hot chili peppers to identify a protein in nerve cells that responds to uncomfortably hot temperatures.

Dr. Patapoutian, a molecular biologist at Scripps Research in La Jolla, Calif., led a team that, by poking individual cells with a tiny pipette, hit upon a receptor that responds to pressure, touch and the positioning of body parts.

After Dr. Julius’s pivotal discovery of a heat-sensing protein in 1997, pharmaceutical companies poured billions of dollars into looking for nonopioid drugs that could dull pain by targeting the receptors. But while research is ongoing, the related treatments have so far run into huge obstacles, scientists said, and interest from drug makers has largely dried up.

Pain and pressure were among the last frontiers of scientists’ efforts to describe the molecular basis for sensations. The 2004 Nobel Prize in Medicine was given to work clarifying how smell worked. As far back as 1967, the prize was awarded to scientists studying vision.

But unlike smell and sight, the perceptions of pain or touch are not located in an isolated part of the body, and scientists did not even know what molecules to look for. “It’s been the last main sensory system to fall to molecular analysis,” Dr. Julius said at an online briefing on Monday.

The biggest hurdle in Dr. Julius’s work was how to comb through a library of millions of DNA fragments encoding different proteins in the sensory neurons to find the one that reacts to capsaicin, the key component in chili peppers. The solution was to introduce those genes into cells that do not normally respond to capsaicin until one was discovered that made the cells capable of reacting.

In search of the molecular basis for touch, Dr. Patapoutian, too, had to sift through a number of possible genes. One by one, he and his collaborators inactivated genes until they identified the single one that, when disabled, made the cells insensitive to the poke of a tiny pipette.

Dr. Patapoutian said that he gravitated to studying the sense of touch and pain because those systems remained so mysterious. “When you find a field that’s not well understood,” he said, “it’s a great opportunity to dig in.”

Abdulrazak Gurnah in Canterbury, England, on Thursday.Credit…Frank Augstein/Associated Press

The Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded on Thursday to Abdulrazak Gurnah for “his uncompromising and compassionate penetration of the effects of colonialism and the fate of the refugee in the gulf between cultures and continents.”

Mr. Gurnah was born in Zanzibar, which is now part of Tanzania, in 1948, and currently lives in Britain. He left Zanzibar at age 18 as a refugee after a violent 1964 uprising in which soldiers overthrew the country’s government.

He is the first African to win the award in almost two decades and the fifth overall, after Wole Soyinka of Nigeria in 1986, Naguib Mahfouz of Egypt in 1988, and the South African winners Nadine Gordimer in 1991 and John Maxwell Coetzee in 2003.

Mr. Gurnah’s 10 novels include “Memory of Departure,” “Pilgrims Way” and “Dottie,” which all deal with the immigrant experience in Britain; “Paradise,” shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 1994, about a boy in an East African country scarred by colonialism; and “Admiring Silence,” about a young man who leaves Zanzibar for England, where he marries and becomes a teacher.

Gurnah’s first language is Swahili, but he adopted English as his literary language, with his prose often inflected with traces of Swahili, Arabic and German.

Anders Olsson, the chair of the committee that awards the prize, said at the news conference on Thursday that Gurnah “has consistently and with great compassion, penetrated the effects of colonialism in East Africa and its effects on the lives of uprooted and migrating individuals.”

Laura Winters, writing in The New York Times in 1996, called “Paradise” “a shimmering, oblique coming-of-age fable,” adding that “Admiring Silence” was a work that “skillfully depicts the agony of a man caught between two cultures, each of which would disown him for his links to the other.”

In an interview with the website Africainwords earlier this year, Gurnah spoke about how, throughout his career, he has been engaged with the questions of displacement, exile, identity and belonging.

“There are different ways of experiencing belonging and unbelonging,” he said. “How do people perceive themselves as part of a community? How are some included and some excluded? Who does the community belong to?”

Nobel prize laureates Congolese gynecological surgeon, Dr. Denis Mukwege, left, and Iraqi Yazidi-Kurdish human rights activist Nadia Murad in Oslo, Norway, in 2018.Credit…Heiko Junge/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

In 2020, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the World Food Program for its efforts to combat a surge in global hunger amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has swept around the world with devastating impact.

Abiy Ahmed, the prime minister of Ethiopia, was awarded the prize in 2019, for his work in restarting peace talks with neighboring Eritrea and beginning to restore freedoms in his country after decades of political and economic repression.

In 2018, the Prize was shared by Nadia Murad, a woman who was forced into sexual slavery by the Islamic State, and Dr. Denis Mukwege, a Congolese gynecological surgeon who treated thousands of women in a country once called the rape capital of the world.

The 2017 peace prize was awarded to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, a Geneva-based coalition of disarmament activists behind the first treaty to prohibit nuclear arms.

President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia won the peace prize in 2016 for pursuing a deal to end 52 years of conflict with a leftist rebel group, the longest-running war in the Americas, just five days after Colombians rejected the agreement in a shocking referendum result.

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