Ranjona Banerji: Here’s to all the Brave Journalists of the World

12 Oct,2021

Ranjona BanerjiBy Ranjona Banerji


That two journalists have won 2021’s Nobel Peace Prize is a matter of immense pride. All too often, the media and journalists get castigated, shamed, blamed for not doing their jobs properly, and deservedly so. But is also true that thousands of journalists all over the world do put their lives on the line to find the story, they stick their necks out and speak truth to power no matter the consequences. Death and imprisonment are common forms of punishment for journalists across the globe, as Julian Assange might testify to.


To have that effort and courage acknowledged and honoured is a matter of great pride. And for the first time, and it may well be the only. The Nobel Committee has not just honoured two journalists, it has emphasised how important journalism is to the future of democracy and peace.


Maria Ressa of the Philippines and Dmitry Muratov of Russia are joint winners of this year’s Noble Peace Prize. The Norwegian Nobel Committee chose them “for their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace”.


The commendation reads: “Maria Ressa uses freedom of expression to expose abuse of power, use of violence and growing authoritarianism in her native Philippines.


“Dmitry Muratov has for decades defended freedom in Russia under increasingly challenging conditions.”


Reporters Without Borders (RSF) put out this statement on the prize to Ressa and Muratov: “They represent all those who work with courage and determination for news and information that is reliable, and freely and independently reported, in world in which democracy and press freedom are increasingly undermined by the spread of fake news and hate speech.”


Salil Tripathi, no stranger to the dangers of standing up for freedom of expression, writes this beautiful portrait of Ressa and lights a candle for all brave journalists:


There are twin challenges for journalists today. The dangers of authoritarian and vicious regimes. Harassment, jail, torture, death. And then, the perfidy of those within the profession. The Nobel Committee does not mention the problem of the media itself and why should it. But journalists who follow the call have to combat two very hostile environs and the minefields strewn around in both.


It’s hard to imagine just how India’s media houses and journalists – in their private moments – have processed this Nobel Peace Prize to two journalists who stood against authoritarian regimes. For our mainstream journalists and anchors, are Ressa and Muratov traitors to the “cause of conciliatory and obeisant journalism”? Heh. There is no such thing, officially speaking, of course. Just the disgrace that passes for journalism in India’s mainstream media and especially in India’s television “news” channels.


I can see a management notice issued to all: “It has come to our attention that some employees celebrated a Nobel Peace Prize awarded to two journalists. This sort of behaviour is in direct contravention to your employment contracts which clearly state that anyone who dares to “safeguard freedom of expression”, “expose authoritarianism” and “defended freedom” will be terminated immediately. We hope that this notice acts as a sufficient warning for future transgressions. All thoughts of questioning the government or any governmental authority or defending Constitutional rights must be extinguished immediately. Your owner has worked very hard, closely with all senior editorial staff, to ensure that there is almost no sort of journalism practised in this organisation and we would like to keep it that way.”


Thus, we raise a toast to Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov, to the Nobel Peace Committee for the honour in which we would so like to share as a community of journalists. And at the same time, that pride is tinged with extreme sorrow as we sit amidst the dry bones of journalism in India. We must scramble to protect and nurture the few real green shoots of journalism that have not died out. Or else…


Meanwhile. Salud.


Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist and commentator. She is also Consulting Editor, MxMIndia. Her views here are personal



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