The office of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has congratulated Filipino journalist Maria Ressa on being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, three days after the committee named her the winner alongside Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov.
Ressa is the first Filipino recipient of the prestigious honour, and also the first woman to receive a Nobel Prize this year.
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The committee cited the two journalists’ “courageous fight for freedom of expression” in the Philippines and Russia” in announcing their decision.
The award is a “victory for a Filipina and we are very happy for that,” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque told a regular news conference in the first comment on Ressa’s win by the president and his supporters.
Ressa, an award-winning journalist who co-founded the website Rappler, has focused much of her work on Duterte’s controversial war on drugs.
Thousands of people have died as a result of the policy which is now the subject of an investigation by the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
Ressa, herself, faces multiple legal challenges related to Rappler’s reporting of Duterte’s government, including its use of social media to target opponents.
She and Rappler “have also documented how social media is being used to spread fake news, harass opponents and manipulate public discourse,” the Nobel committee noted.
“Of course it is true there are individuals who feel Maria Ressa still has to clear her name before the courts,” Roque said on Monday.
Rappler has more than 4.5 million followers on Facebook, and is one of the few Philippine media organisations to be openly critical of Duterte and his policies.
Ressa told Al Jazeera she was “shocked” when she learned she had been named the Peace Prize laureate, but said it was recognition of how crucial the battle for truth had become.
“The algorithm of the world’s largest distributor of news – Facebook – actually favours lies laced with anger and hate that spreads faster than facts,” she said.
“When facts are debatable, then you don’t have facts, you don’t have truth and you can’t have trust. Without all of these things then you don’t have a shared reality, you can’t have democracy and you certainly can’t have any meaningful human engagement to deal with (the) existential problems we face.”