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2021's Nobel Peace Prize winners are revealed

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

In an era when the struggle for political power around the world is often a battle for information, today's Nobel Peace Prize goes to two journalists. One journalist challenged the brutality of the drug war in the Philippines on a website called Rappler. The other insisted on an independent news source in Vladimir Putin's Russia. We've called correspondents who know both recipients, Charles Maynes in Moscow and our London correspondent Frank Langfitt. Welcome to you both.

FRANK LANGFITT, BYLINE: Good to be with you (ph).

CHARLES MAYNES, BYLINE: Great to be here, Steve (ph).

INSKEEP: Charles, let's start with you in Moscow. Who is the Russian recipient?

MAYNES: Well, the recipient is Dmitry Muratov. He's the longtime editor of Novaya Gazeta. This is an independent Russian newspaper known for critical and investigative coverage of Russian politics and social affairs. You know, they really, really stick, you know, truth to power. They cover human rights abuses, environmental catastrophes and really just Russia's authoritarian drift over this past several years. We heard from Muratov reacting to the news today. He said he absolutely did not expect this prize. He said he was laughing about it. But once he got serious, he said that, you know, he dedicated it to Russian journalism, saying that this was - journalism in Russia is under pressure all the time from the Kremlin, and he wants to see it work for some good with this news.

INSKEEP: This is, we should remind people, a country where the government effectively controls the TV networks. There's not a lot of independent journalism, and opposition figures end up in jail, if not dead. When you talk with him, how does he seem to deal with the pressure?

MAYNES: Well, you know, he's always had to face a lot of personal costs in his own life. Novaya Gazeta has lost several journalists, were murdered doing their work in the field or doing investigations. Most notably, this is Anna Politkovskaya. She's their star reporter who covered events in Chechnya during the Russian-Chechen Wars in the '90s. In fact, yesterday marked 15 years since her murder, which has never fully been solved. The person behind the actual - the murder was never caught. And the newspaper marked the event by opening a museum, actually, in the - at their headquarters here in Moscow. So, I mean, Muratov knows well the costs of doing journalism in Russia, and he's become something of a Grand Puba figure here. He's 59 years old, and people really look to him as sort of a source of wisdom on trying to kind of navigate the environment here.

INSKEEP: How does he end up not being in jail himself?

MAYNES: Well, Novaya has kind of a strange status now. Because of all the loss in their newsroom, because of all these journalists who've been killed in - on duty, in fact, getting into their newsroom today, you need - it's located on a guarded sort of territory you need to arrange in advance with your passport to get through. So basically, they're under the protection of the security services just in case.

INSKEEP: Well, let's turn to Frank Langfitt now. Who is Maria Ressa, the recipient from the Philippines of the Nobel Peace Prize?

LANGFITT: Yeah. Steve, she used to be a CNN correspondent in Asia, and she created this new site, Rappler, a number of years back. And it's been very aggressive - all digital - and exposed, you know, this campaign by Rodrigo Duterte, the leader of the Philippines, to basically wipe out the drug trade and led to thousands and thousands of extrajudicial killings there. Rappler covered it very, very aggressively, and Duterte ended up targeting Rappler and targeting Ressa, filing charges against her on all kinds of things about investment and financial and tax things widely seen in the Philippines and elsewhere simply as trumped-up charges to intimidate and shut her up.

INSKEEP: I think you've known her for decades, Frank. Are you surprised that she would be the kind of person who would challenge authority that way?

LANGFITT: No, I'm not at all, and I'm not even necessarily surprised she won the peace prize. We went to college together, and Maria was sort of far ahead of most of the rest of us and was in, you know, student government, things like that. And when she started Rappler, she was very, very aggressive. I remember talking to her about it in Manila over dinner when she was just getting it going. So no, I think what's really remarkable about her, though, if you meet her, is she's extremely soft-spoken. She's very humble. And the idea that she would be willing to, you know, take on, you know, the authoritarian leader in Manila is pretty extraordinary. But she stuck with it.

INSKEEP: When you've spoken with her in more recent years, does she feel that she's made a difference - because the drug war in the Philippines has just gone right on?

LANGFITT: It has, and I think that she's been at times despondent over that. But she sort of feels like - and I think this is maybe the message of the Nobel Committee today - is that even if it is hard to make progress, it is very important that investigative journalists do this. They expose. They hold political leaders to account. And she has - you know, you were asking Charles - Ressa has also paid a price for this. She faces all these criminal charges. If she's convicted, she'll spend the rest of her - she's in her late 50s - she'll spend the rest of her life in prison. But in my conversations with her, she says she's kind of come to terms with that even if this means that, you know, she were to end up getting killed as well. So it's a big day, I think, for journalism and a big statement from the Nobel Committee.

INSKEEP: Charles Maynes, living in Moscow as you do, do you feel you understand what it is that drives some people to do the kind of work that the Nobel Committee is awarding today, that it is honoring today?

MAYNES: I do. I mean, I have met, you know, not only if we talk about you, Mr. Muratov - he's, of course, a veteran of this environment, you know, as a time journalist here, but there's a whole host of young journalists in Russia who are under immense pressure these days. It was interesting to see that we also heard from the Kremlin talking about congratulating Muratov on his award, calling him talented, brave. I think that's frankly because they're very relieved that the prize didn't go to Alexei Navalny, the jailed opposition figure here.

INSKEEP: OK. So this was a relief to them. That's very interesting. Charles, thanks so much. Really appreciate it.

MAYNES: Thank you.

INSKEEP: And Frank Langfitt, thanks to you.

LANGFITT: Great to talk, Steve.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Charles Maynes and Frank Langfitt on two journalists from the Philippines and Russia who have won the Nobel Peace Prize today. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.