Philippine court allows Maria Ressa to attend Nobel Peace Prize ceremony

The Court of Appeals in the Philippines said Friday that it would allow journalist Maria Ressa to travel to Norway to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, after the government tried to block her from attending the ceremony.

>>Sui-Lee WeeThe New York Times
Published : 4 Dec 2021, 05:14 AM
Updated : 4 Dec 2021, 05:14 AM

Ressa’s attorney, Ted Te, filed the appeal last month for his client after the Philippines’ solicitor general said the journalist could not travel to Norway. The government called her a flight risk because her “recurring criticisms of the Philippine legal processes in the international community reveal her lack of respect for the judicial system.”

Ressa was awarded the peace prize in October along with Dmitry Muratov, a Russian investigative journalist, for “their courageous fight for freedom of expression.”

Ressa, the first Nobel laureate from the Philippines, is the CEO of Rappler, a digital news organisation that is well known for its investigations on disinformation and of President Rodrigo Duterte’s brutal five-year drug war. She is an outspoken critic of Duterte, whose government has filed seven criminal charges against her, including cyberlibel and tax evasion.

The ruling Friday came after days of growing international pressure to allow Ressa to attend the ceremony, which will be held in Oslo, Norway, on Dec 10.

Earlier this week, the United Nations urged the Philippines to let Ressa travel to Norway, saying it was “very concerned” about the restrictions placed on her. The International Press Institute warned that blocking Ressa from the ceremony “puts the Philippines in the company of some of history’s most repressive regimes.”

The last time a government barred a Nobel Laureate from collecting an award was in 2010, when China prevented dissident Liu Xiaobo from doing so. The only other time that an award was not collected was in 1936, when the peace prize went to Carl von Ossietzky, a German journalist detained in a concentration camp by Nazi Germany.

Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov, the leader of Poland’s Solidarity movement, Lech Walesa and Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar were also barred by their governments from attending, but their family members were allowed to collect the award on their behalf.

“We’d like to think that the Court of Appeals reached the resolution independently of any public opinion,” said Te, Ressa’s attorney. “But the Court of Appeals is composed of human beings who are aware of what’s going on. So, of course, anything they read could possibly have an influence on how they think.”

Ressa is due to fly to Oslo from Manila on Dec 8, according to Te. She still needs permission from two more courts to travel because of the pending cases against her.

On Thursday, a coalition of groups from the Philippines made up of rights activists and academics called on the government to allow Ressa to go to Oslo because her presence in the ceremony is “symbolic, urgent and necessary.”

“This brings great honour and recognition not only to Ms. Ressa, but to the Philippines, Filipinos both present and unborn, and all journalists whom she represents through this award,” the group stated.

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