By Uche Akunebu
Chinua Achebe, the inimitable wordsmith and storyteller in his magnum opus, Things Fall Apart in one of the chapters of the most translated book in Africa eulogized Okonkwo, the protagonist of the book when he stated inter alia, “As a young man of eighteen, he had brought honour to his village by throwing Amalinze the cat. Amalinze was the great wrestler who for seven years was unbeaten, from Umuofia to Mbaino. He was called the cat because his back would never touch the earth.”
With the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize in the kitties of distinguished duo Dmitry Andreyevich Muratov, a Russian journalist television presenter and editor-in-chief of the Russian newspaper, Novaya Gazeta and Maria Angelita Ressa, a Filipino-American journalist, author and co-founder and CEO of Rappler, an online news platform, it goes without saying that the two eminent journalists have brought honour, fame and unfathomable joy not just themselves but by extension to the noble profession of journalism, by wrestling down demons of democracy who have been busy enthroning authoritarianism in their different countries, and making mincemeat of human rights. Dmitry Andreyevich Muratov wrestled down his own “Amalinze the cat” to the ground, while as the editor-in-chief of a pro-democracy newspaper called the Gazeta, ensured that sensitive topics such as governmental corruption and human rights violation were reported without the staff hiding under the table, after doing so.
The Nobel committee in dressing the Russian journalist with robe of honour admitted that Muratov helped to create “the only truly critical newspaper with national influence in Russia today.” According to the committee, his newspaper has also been influential in shedding light on the turbulent situations in Chechnya and the Northern Caucasus in general.
For Maria Angelita Ressa, the Filipino-American journalist, co-founder and CEO of Rappler as well as the author with the following book titles, How To Stand Up To A Dictator, From Bin Laden To Facebook: 10 Days of Abduction, 10 Years of Terrorism and Seeds of Terror, the Nobel Committee had beautiful things to say about her.
In a news release, the Nobel Committee stated that Ressa used freedom of expression to expose abuse of power, use of violence and growing authoritarianism in her native country, the Philippines. The report added, “As a journalist and the Rappler CEO, Ressa has shown herself to be a fearless defender of freedom of expression. Rappler has focused critical attention on the Duterte regimes controversial murderous anti drug campaign.”
Dmitry Muratov has eminently earned his award for not being tongue-tied in Russia where Vladimir Putin stands like the Roman Colossus, as he has courageously spoken out, when it was dangerous to do so, with the result being a Nobel Peace Prize in his kitty.
As for Maria Angelita Ressa, who in the line of duty stretched her freedom of expression to the limit, under the dreadful regime of Rodrigo Duterte of Philippines, the Nobel Committee also had to reward her efforts with a Nobel Peace Prize.
It has always been the silent prayer of any journalist with eyes set on the ball to win the Pulitzer prize which is an award given to journalists that have brought to bear uncommon touch of excellence to their professional work, but for a journalist to be admitted to the prestigious Nobel Laureates club, speaks to professional doggedness of the highest order.
As the journalism constituency to which the writer belongs basks in the euphoria of the Nobel Peace prize won by two of our own, it has become imperative to place a serious demand on the doorsteps of journalists around the globe in the need to use their freedom of expression to confront the demons of democracy, anywhere seen.
With more and more journalists realising that the pen is mightier than the sword, and using such to frighten fascists, dictators, anti-democratic elements and abusers of human rights in a consistent manner, a Nobel Prize remains a low-hanging fruit.
Uche Akunebu is an author and journalist based in Abuja
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