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Nobel Peace Prize Awarded To Novaya Gazeta Editor, Filipino-American Journalist

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Novaya gazeta Editor in Chief Dmitry Muratov speaks with the Associated Press at the newspaper's offices in Moscow on October 7.

This year's Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to Russian independent newspaper Novaya gazeta Editor in Chief Dmitry Muratov and Filipino-American journalist Maria Ressa "for their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression."

"Ms. Ressa and Mr. Muratov are receiving the Peace Prize for their courageous fight for freedom of expression in the Philippines and Russia," the Norwegian Nobel Committee, the award-giving body, said in a statement on October 8.

"At the same time, 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 prestigious Nobel Peace Prize is intended to honor an individual or organization that has "done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations."

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.

Maria Ressa
Maria Ressa

Muratov, 59, was 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 region of Chechnya.

The 15th anniversary of Politkovskaya's assassination in her apartment building in central Moscow was marked on October 7, with the United States and the European Union renewing their calls for all those responsible to be brought to justice.

Muratov dedicated his Nobel Peace Prize to Politkovskaya and the other Novaya gazeta's journalists and contributors who had been killed for their work.

"I am not a proper beneficiary of the prize. Yesterday, it was the 15th anniversary since Anna Politkovskaya's murder. I think, since the Nobel Prize is not given posthumously, they decided to give the prize to her and our other slain journalists via other people. The prize is also for our brilliant journalists working with us now," he told a news conference in Moscow.

"I want to say it again. This is a prize given first of all, to our slain colleagues -- [Novaya gazeta journalists] Igor Domnikov, Yury Shchekochikhin, Anna Politkovskaya, Nastya Baburova, [human rights activists] Natalia Estemirova, Stanislav Markelov, and others."

But Muratov added that, if it had been his decision, he would have awarded the prize to imprisoned Russian opposition leader and Kremlin critic Aleksei Navalny.

If it was up to me, and if I was a member of the Nobel Committee I would give this prize to the person who deserves it most these days, I mean Aleksei Navalny."

Despite the killings and threats, Muratov "has refused to abandon the newspaper's independent policy" and "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," according to the Norwegian Nobel Committee.

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Muratov said part of the money he will receive will be used to treat children with serious illnesses and young journalists.

"On Monday, we will decide how to properly use the money. One thing is clear -- we will help children with serious illnesses, especially children with spinal muscular atrophy, journalistic start-ups, and Vera hospice."

RFE/RL President Jamie Fly welcomed the honoring of Muratov and his team, saying, "We share their commitment to independent journalism in Russia at a time when the truth is under sustained assault by the Kremlin.”

"This recognition of the importance of their work is an inspiration to all journalists working in Russia at this critical moment," Fly added.

Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, also congratulated Muratov, saying he was "talented and courageous," while the spokesman for 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 legislation on "undesirable" individuals or groups, as well as the so-called "foreign agents" law.

Ressa said her Nobel Peace Prize win shows that "nothing is possible without facts," and added, "A world without facts means a world without truth and trust."

The Norwegian Nobel Committee said Ressa, who heads a digital media company for investigative journalism, Rappler, "uses freedom of expression to expose abuse of power, use of violence and growing authoritarianism" in the Philippines.

A spokeswoman for the UN human rights office, Ravina Shamdasani, congratulated both Ressa and Muratov on receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, saying it was "recognition of the importance of the work of journalists in the most difficult circumstances."

The Committee to Protect Journalists said Muratov and Ressa "personify the values of press freedom and the reason it matters. These are journalists under personal threat, who continuously defy censorship and repression to report the news, and have led the way for others to do the same."

"This Nobel Peace Prize is a powerful recognition of their tireless work, and that of journalists all around the world. Their struggle is our struggle," the executive director of the New York-based media-freedom watchdog, Joel Simon, said in a statement.

The secretary-general of Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Christophe Deloire, called the award "a powerful message at a time when democracies are weakened by the proliferation of false information and hate speech."

With reporting by Reuters, AFP, Interfax, and TASS
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