Nobel Peace Prize ceremony: Maria Ressa and Dmitri Muratov represent a profession with at least 1,636 members killed in 20 years (46 this year alone)

The Nobel Peace Prize will be awarded to two journalists in Oslo, Norway on 10 December, the Philippines’ Maria Ressa and Russia’s Dmitri Muratov, who together embody all of the threats to journalism. The worst of which is murder. More than 1,600 journalists have been killed in the past 20 years, 46 of them in 2021 alone, according to data gathered by Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

For the first time in more than 80 years, the Nobel Peace Prize is being awarded to journalists. According to the Nobel Committee, the two laureates represent the “courageous fight for freedom of expression” at a time when democracy and press freedom are facing multiple threats.

These threats are reflected, among other things,in the number of journalists killed. According to RSF’s tally, at least 1,636 journalists have been murdered in connection with their work in the past two decades – 916 of them in the past ten years alone. Since 2015, the year that the latest UN Security Council resolution on protecting journalists (Resolution 2222) was adopted at a meeting addressed by RSF’s secretary-general, the number of journalists killed each year has steadily decreased through  2021, with 46 killed since the start of the year. This downward trend is undoubtedly due to both structural and conjunctural factors (see below).

“We are honoured by the decision to award this prestigious prize to two journalists at a time when the right to provide news and information is endangered by multiple threats,” RSF secretary general Christophe Deloire said. “We call for a decisive, concerted effort by all parties concerned, starting with the UN but also by countries and citizens. The freedom to inform requires many guarantees, but first and foremost is for journalists to be able to stay alive and keep working without a constant threat hanging over them. Some governments’ continuing failure to protect threatened journalists increases the dangers they face. Reporting the news should cease to be a deadly activity.”

The fact that this year’s death toll, 46, is the lowest in 19 years is due mainly to the decline in the intensity of conflicts that were particularly deadly from 2012 to 2016 (in Syria, Iraq and Yemen). It is also the result of intensive campaigning by freedom of the press NGOs, including RSF, for the creation of international and national protection mechanisms, which remain, nonetheless, insufficient. Finally, the fall is also attributable to the decision by many news organisations to send fewer reporters into the field because of the Covid-19 pandemic and because some parts of the world, such as Libya and the Sahel region, have become too dangerous for reporters, who have become  targets there.

The journalists chosen by the Nobel Committee as this year’s joint laureates are from two of the most dangerous countries for journalists.

Maria Ressa’s Philippines: sights turned on journalists
33 – The number of journalists killed in the Philippines in the past ten years.
15 – The number of journalists killed since Rodrigo Duterte took office as president on 30 June 2016.
8th – The Philippines’ rank among the world’s most dangerous countries for journalists, according to RSF’s figures for the past ten years, as it is beset by systemic violence (caused by political crises, separatism and drug trafficking, inter alia) and ruled by President Duterte, designated a press freedom predator by RSF. It shares this position with war-torn Yemen.  
138th – The Philippines’ ranking out of 180 countries in RSF’s World Press Freedom Index.

Dmitri Muratov’s Russia: murders and impunity
7 – The number of journalists killed in Russia in the past ten years.
37 –The number of journalists killed since Vladimir Putin took office as president on 7 May 2000.
21st – Russia’s rank among the world’s most dangerous countries for journalists, according RSF’s figures for the past ten yeras, where six Novaya Gazeta journalists and contributors (including Anna Politkovskaya) have been murdered since the newspaper’s creation in 1993. Novaya Gazeta’s editor, Dmitri Muratov, dedicated his Nobel Prize to the newspaper’s six murder victims.
150th – Russia’s ranking out of 180 countries in RSF's World Press Freedom Index.

RSF will publish the entirety of its figures for journalists killed, imprisoned, held hostage and missing in 2021 on Thursday 16 December.

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Updated on 09.12.2021