Thirty-two years ago next month, I was in Germany reporting on the fall of the Berlin Wall, an event then heralded as a triumph of Western democratic liberalism and even “the end of history.”
But democracy isn’t doing so well across the globe now. Nothing underscores how far we have come from that moment of irrational exuberance than the powerful warning the Nobel Prize Committee felt compelled to issue on Oct. 8, 2021 in awarding its coveted Peace Prize to two reporters.
“They are representative for all journalists,” Berit Reiss-Andersen, the chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, said in announcing the award to Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov, “in a world in which democracy and freedom of the press face increasingly adverse conditions.”
The honor for Muratov, the co-founder of Russia’s Novaya Gazeta, and Ressa, the CEO of the Philippine news site Rappler, is enormously important. In part that’s because of the protection that global attention may afford two journalists under imminent and relentless threat from the strongmen who run their respective countries. “The world is watching,” Reiss-Andersen pointedly noted in an interview after making the announcement.
Equally important is the larger message the committee wanted to deliver. “Without media, you cannot have a strong democracy,” Reiss-Andersen said.