The Nobel Peace Prize 2021 goes to freedom of the press

Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov have very different stories. They share integrity, consistency and consequently sacrifice. They were chosen beyond their diversity to convey an unambiguous message. The Nobel Peace Prize 2021 goes to the free press, and it’s a warning to politics and governments. 10/08/2021 becomes a historical date in a way, because it marks the bond between an authoritative voice such as the Nobel Committee and our vision of politics and democracy: we can’t have peace if we can’t talk about war. Find below the Nobel Committee announcement itself.

“The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 2021 to Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov for their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace. Ms Ressa and Mr Muratov are receiving the Peace Prize for their courageous fight for freedom of expression in the Philippines and Russia. At 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.

Maria Ressa uses freedom of expression to expose abuse of power, use of violence and growing authoritarianism in her native country, the Philippines. In 2012, she co-founded Rappler, a digital media company for investigative journalism, which she still heads. As a journalist and the Rappler’s CEO, Ressa has shown herself to be a fearless defender of freedom of expression. Rappler has focused critical attention on the Duterte regime’s controversial, murderous anti-drug campaign. The number of deaths is so high that the campaign resembles a war waged against the country’s own population. Ms Ressa and Rappler have also documented how social media is being used to spread fake news, harass opponents and manipulate public discourse.

Dmitry Andreyevich Muratov has for decades defended freedom of speech in Russia under increasingly challenging conditions. In 1993, he was one of the founders of the independent newspaper Novaja Gazeta. Since 1995 he has been the newspaper’s editor-in-chief for a total of 24 years. Novaja Gazeta is the most independent newspaper in Russia today, with a fundamentally critical attitude towards power. The newspaper’s fact-based journalism and professional integrity have made it an important source of information on censurable aspects of Russian society rarely mentioned by other media. Since its start-up in 1993, Novaja Gazeta has published critical articles on subjects ranging from corruption, police violence, unlawful arrests, electoral fraud and ”troll factories” to the use of Russian military forces both within and outside Russia.

Novaja Gazeta’s opponents have responded with harassment, threats, violence and murder. Since the newspaper’s start, six of its journalists have been killed, including Anna Politkovskaja who wrote revealing articles on the war in Chechnya. Despite the killings and threats, editor-in-chief Muratov has refused to abandon the newspaper’s independent policy. He has consistently defended the right of journalists to write anything they want about whatever they want, as long as they comply with the professional and ethical standards of journalism.

Free, independent and fact-based journalism serves to protect against abuse of power, lies and war propaganda. The Norwegian Nobel Committee is convinced that freedom of expression and freedom of information help to ensure an informed public. These rights are crucial prerequisites for democracy and protect against war and conflict. The award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov is intended to underscore the importance of protecting and defending these fundamental rights.

Without freedom of expression and freedom of the press, it will be difficult to successfully promote fraternity between nations, disarmament and a better world order to succeed in our time. This year’s award of the Nobel Peace Prize is therefore firmly anchored in the provisions of Alfred Nobel’s will.”

This year’s Nobel Peace Prize states clearly and loudly that there can’t be peace without freedom of the press, because freedom of the press is the referee of political controversies. It’s imperative that all the governments face this issue when looking at actual wars, and to prevent more wars in the future.


Seven years waiting for justice: crucial days coming soon

Three months went by since the publication of the motivation of the appeal verdict. This has been rather painful for us to process: on one hand the confirmation of Ukraine’s responsibility of the double murder of Andy Rocchelli and Andrey Mironov, the involvement of the Ukrainian National Guard, the mortar fire shot from the Ukrainian Army deliberately targeting the two journalists till their material annihilation; on the other hand, the acquittal of Vitaly Markiv. Due to a formal flaw of the 1st grade trial. Truth and injustice.

Despite our anger, we decided to stick once more to the principles that guided us through this tragedy since its very beginning: keep close to the family, respect public institutions. Hence we patiently, quietly waited for the next steps of Italian Justice, while astonished witnessing the triumphal coming home of a soldier judged guilty but not chargeable. On May 24th, the 7th anniversary of Andy and Andrey’s death, we get ready for some decisive turns.

Exactly in these days the High Court of Cassation examines the verdict issued by the Court of Appeal. The resolution could be a sensational one: the decision of the Court of Appeal of not admitting some crucial evidence (the statements released by Markiv’s superior and comrades) due to a formal flaw might be ruled unlawful. This may lead to a delegitimation of the appeal verdict and foster its rediscussion.

The consequences would then be remarkable, as the formal flaw would be cancelled while the unquestionable substance would remain. We await with endless patience, asking the readers to wait with us.

Soon we’ll get to know what’s next, whether a new appeal will take place.

Meanwhile, the social and cultural involvement of Volpi Scapigliate keeps working. In the next months we’ll contribute to Cesura’s project of promotion of Andy Rocchelli’s archive and institution of a photo-prize in his memory. Volpi will work on the very contemporary topic of fake news, a theme intrinsically related to the storytelling Andy was focused on. Within the BambinFestival, a children festival held yearly in Pavia in the month of June, we’ll organize several talks dedicated to children, young adults, their parents and their educators. Together we’ll strive to craft a significative experience for all participants, a small step towards a better informed society.

Once again we find ourselves at a crucial node of this trial and of our involvement as cultural association. And once again that happens close to the anniversary we all hate. The path leads us further and we keep walking.

Oppure: there’s a long way ahead of us and we keep walking.

Articolo21 and the Milan Festival of Human Rights organized a press conference on May 24th, 5 pm. Andy Rocchelli’s parents, Rino and Elisa, their lawyer Alessandra Ballerini and the president of the Italian Press Federation will take part to the online talk, along with Paolo Perucchini (president of the Lombardy Association of Journalists), journalists Mario Calabresi, Nello Scavo and Mariangela Gritta Grainer, who widely covered the case. President of the lower chamber Roberto Fico will share a message dedicated to Andy Rocchelli’s story.


We got the truth, but not justice yet

The Vitalyi Markiv acquittal verdict reasons declared by the Court of Appeal of Milan mark a crucial turning point in the trial for the murder of Andy Rocchelli and Andrej Mironov. We deeply looked into the acquittal reasons and we want to share a summary, in addition to a consideration of ours, because this document brings many important facts. 

All the defense  requests for the investigation renewal are rejected. The reliability of the key witnesses is confirmed. In particular, the document defines as unfounded the defense criticism towards the depositions of the photographer William Roguelon and the Italian journalists. Finally, the reconstruction of the events done by the Pavia Assize Court are confirmed to be correct and extensively proven. Let’s briefly recap the main points of the events reconstruction of the events that have been so difficult to piece together, but that have been confirmed once again by the Court of Appeal.

Andy and Andrei went to a place that had previously been bombarded, but they went there when no conflicts were happening at that moment. They went there to carry out their professional activity as war photojournalists. They were identified by the Ukrainian National Guard having them all the elements to identify them as civilians: from their clothes to the taxi sign. As it is reported at page 58 of the document with the reasons of the sentence, “Those people informed the captains who gave the order to shoot also informing the army about the coordinates for pointing the mortars against them”. There were not russian supporters, nor provocations. In the document again is written “It was an order illegittemily given, because violating the regulations aiming to protect the civilians”. Following that, the shoots aimed at the target lasted half an hour and had the physical elimination of the journalists. 

This is the truth, and it is a truth bringing heavy implications. In Sloviansk, the Ukrainian Army committed crimes against humanity, violating the international law. Andy didn’t go to the wrong place, he had not been imprudent, he didn’t happened to be in the crossfire. Andy was murdered together with his colleague Andrej, following a deliberated order by the Ukrainian chain of command with the aim of getting rid of them.

Therefore, why and what does imply Markiv’s absolution? 

It is due to a procedural mistake. It is proven that Markiv was working in service on the Karachun hill the day of the attack. The only element that situated him surely in the position from where the attack started is linked to a series of depositions by fellow soldiers and superiors, among which his direct superior, Bogdan Matkiwsky. As for those people subsisted evidences of link, the criminal code establishes that their depositions could only be given in presence of a defensor and following a specific ritual, making those depostions not less trustworthy, but inadmissible from a procedural point of view. The reasonable doubt comes from that: it is known that Markiv was there, but it is known thanks to evidences that are not admissible. It is known that the Ukrainian army is guilty, but the the civil responsibility of the army is juridically linked to Markiv’s penal sentence. Therefore, since the latter is absolved due to shortage of evidences, the Ukrainian responsibility is not juridically admissible either.

To sum it up, it is known what happened, it is known who was due to, but it is not possible to have justice, due to a formal fault. What is missing is justice here, not the truth. This is why we cannot give up: we go ahead by the side of Andy’s family along the path till the Court of Appeal. We understand that the penal procedure must respect the juridical rules, but we cannot accept that a wicked crime against humanity that violates the Geneva Convention is left unpunished just due to a quibble. We understand the law, but there is no justice yet. The path is still long and difficult. The path of human beings is like that, made of small big achievements, but also of high obstacles and cheap shots. We hold tight to the truth achieved, but surely do not stop there. Now we want justice. And we carry on.