WASHINGTON -- U.S. President Joe Biden has congratulated journalists Dmitry Muratov of Russia and Maria Ressa of the Philippines after they won the “much-deserved” Nobel Peace Prize for their work promoting "the basic principles of the free press."
Muratov and Ressa “have pursued the facts -- tirelessly and fearlessly," Biden said in a statement on October 8.
"They have worked to check the abuse of power, expose corruption, and demand transparency,” he added.
"They have been tenacious in founding independent media outlets and defending them against forces that seek their silence."
Biden said that “for their commitment to the basic principles of the free press -- principles that are indispensable to a healthy democracy -- they have faced constant threats, harassment, and intimidation, legal action, and even, in the case of Muratov, the death of his colleagues.”
Muratov, 59, is one of the founders of Novaya gazeta in 1993 and has been the newspaper’s editor in chief for 24 years.
The Nobel committee said Novaya gazeta, which it described as “the most independent newspaper in Russia today,” has defended freedom of speech in Russia “under increasingly challenging conditions.”
The committee hailed the paper’s “critical attitude towards power” and its “fact-based journalism and professional integrity,” which it said “have made it an important source of information on censurable aspects of Russian society rarely mentioned by other media” -- including corruption, police violence, unlawful arrests, and electoral fraud.
Novaya gazeta has faced “harassment, threats, violence, and murder” since its start, with six of its journalists being killed, including Anna Politkovskaya, whose reporting exposed high-level corruption in Russia and rights abuses in the North Caucasus republic of Chechnya.
The award is accompanied by a gold medal and more than $1.14 million to share between the two laureates. The prize money comes from a bequest left by the prize's creator, Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel, who died in 1895.
Muratov said part of the money he will receive will be used to treat children with serious illnesses and young journalists.
Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, had earlier congratulated Muratov, saying he was “talented and courageous,” while the spokesman for Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin said the award was "well-deserved."
Russian authorities have been accused of increasingly cracking down on independent media outlets, civil society groups, rights activists, and others, using legislations on “undesirable” individuals or groups, as well as the so-called “foreign agents” law.
With reporting by Reuters and AFP