Nobel Prize winner Ressa says social media companies are fueling ‘toxic sludge’ ‘Capital News

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Maria Ressa (left) said internet companies “bring out our fears, anger and hatred” © AFP / Odd ANDERSEN

Oslo (AFP), December 10 – Accepting her Nobel Peace Prize on Friday, Filipino journalist Maria Ressa launched a vitriolic attack on US tech giants, accusing them of fueling a flood of “toxic sludge” on social media.

Ressa, co-founder of the Rappler news site, accepted this year’s award during a ceremony at Oslo City Hall with her co-winner Dmitry Muratov, the editor-in-chief of Novaya Gazeta, l one of the few independent newspapers in a Russian media landscape largely under state control.

Addressing a small crowd due to the pandemic, Ressa, 58, attacked “American internet companies” such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube without mentioning them by name.

“With divine power,” their technology “allowed a virus of lies to infect each of us, pitting us against each other, bringing out our fears, anger and hatred, and setting the stage for the rise. authoritarians and dictators around the world, ”she said.

“Our greatest need today is to transform this hate and violence, the toxic sludge that runs through our information ecosystem, prioritized by American internet companies that make more money by spreading this hate and unleashing the worst into us, ”she said.

Ressa has stressed the importance of reliable facts at a time when the world is battling the Covid-19 pandemic or facing upcoming elections in countries like France, the United States, the Philippines and Hungary.

These companies “are biased against the facts, biased against journalists. They are – by design – dividing us and radicalizing us, ”she said.

Ressa, a fierce criticism of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and his murderous war on drugs, herself faces seven criminal prosecutions in her country which she says could see her sent to jail for 100 years.

Currently on bail pending an appeal against a conviction last year in a cyber defamation case, she had to seek permission from four courts to travel to Norway for Friday’s ceremony.

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– Minute of silence –

His co-laureate Muratov, 60, called for a minute of silence during the Nobel ceremony to honor all journalists killed in the line of duty.

“I want journalists to die old,” he said.

Known for its investigations into corruption and human rights violations in Chechnya, Novaya Gazeta has seen six of its journalists killed since the 1990s, including famous investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya, who was murdered in 2006.

Press freedom in 2021 © AFP

“Journalism in Russia is going through a dark period,” Muratov said in his acceptance speech, noting that more than 100 journalists, media outlets, human rights defenders and NGOs have recently been labeled “foreign agents” by the Russian ministry. Justice.

The label “foreign agent” is intended to apply to individuals or groups who receive funds from abroad and are involved in any type of “political activity”.

But it was also granted to journalists and media critical of the Kremlin, making their work extremely difficult.

While Russian President Vladimir Putin warned that the Nobel was not a “shield” protecting journalists, Muratov said he did not expect his newspaper to receive this status.

“In the 30 years of our newspaper’s existence, we have done so many positive and beneficial things for the country that to announce ourselves as foreign agents would be a deterioration for the power of the country” and “a stupid thing to do”, he said. he told AFP. a meeting.

– Record number of jailed journalists –

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According to a report compiled by Reporters Without Borders up to December 1, at least 1,636 journalists have been killed around the world over the past 20 years, including 46 since the start of the year.

Muratov, 60, runs one of the few independent newspapers in a largely state-controlled Russian media landscape © AFP / Odd ANDERSEN

In addition, the number of journalists imprisoned around the world has never been higher, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, with 293 currently behind bars.

“Bringing history to the public can in itself be a prevention of war,” said Norwegian Nobel Committee chairperson Berit Reiss-Andersen.

“The role of the press is to reveal aggressions and abuses of power, thus contributing to peace. ”

The Oslo ceremony also saw the head of the World Food Program, winner of the 2020 Peace Prize, give his Nobel lecture. Last year’s festivities were canceled due to the pandemic.

Free and independent journalism is threatened around the world © AFP / Odd ANDERSEN

This year’s other Nobel laureates in medicine, physics, chemistry, literature and economics would normally receive their prizes at a separate ceremony in Stockholm on Friday.

But due to the Covid situation, they received their awards in their hometown earlier this week.

A ceremony was due to take place in their honor in the Swedish capital later on Friday, in the presence of the royal family.


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