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Journalists must collaborate to fight disinformation, Nobel winner Ressa says

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Two journalists won the Nobel Peace Prize this week - Dmitry Muratov of Russia and Maria Ressa of the Philippines, who have each bravely reported about official corruption and human rights crimes. The two were recognized for their courageous fight for freedom of expression, said Chairwoman Berit Reiss-Andersen of the Norwegian Nobel committee. 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, she added. Free, independent and fact-based journalism serves to protect against abuse of power, lies and war propaganda.

Dmitry Muratov runs the Novaya Gazeta and dedicated his award to six contributors to his newspaper who've been murdered. Maria Ressa runs the investigative news site Rappler and faces imprisonment for what the Filipino government calls cyber libel. We spoke with her in December 2018 about journalism in these times around the world.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

MARIA RESSA: As journalists, we need to work together. Collaboration is far more important today than it ever has been because you're fighting disinformation that is crippling the credibility of the groups. And then on top of that, we have leaders who are then using their vast powers to reinforce the disinformation that is being used to attack us. The second is to demand accountability from platforms like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter - ask them to clean up the toxic sludge. Facebook is now the world's largest distributor of news. What we human journalists used to do as gatekeepers, well, the social media platforms are going to have to learn to do that. Otherwise, this toxic sludge will weaken democracies all around the world.

SIMON: And why is this important to people who might be listening?

RESSA: I think it's the kind of world we live in, right? It goes down to the values and principles and the type of communities we want to build. The reason I continue to fight from the Philippines is I think Filipinos value human rights. I don't think they want to see innocent people killed. And I believe that in the end, the principles of democracy is - we fought hard for it. And this disinformation that's clouding our world today, I think when that's done, when that's gone will be able to strengthen our democracy again.

SIMON: Maria Ressa, a 2021 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, speaking with us via Skype in 2018.

(SOUNDBITE OF CITY OF THE SUN'S "VENTURA") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.