Philippine court clears Maria Ressa to travel to Norway for Nobel Prize

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The Philippine appeals court said on Friday it would allow journalist Maria Ressa to travel to Norway to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, overturning a government decision to prevent her from attending the ceremony.

Ms Ressa’s attorney, Ted Te, appealed last month for his client after the Solicitor General of the Philippines said the reporter could not travel to Norway. The government called it risk of flight because his “recurring criticisms of Filipino legal processes within the international community reveal his lack of respect for the justice system.”

Ms. Ressa received the Peace Prize in October with Dmitry A. Muratov, a Russian investigative journalist, for “their courageous fight for freedom of expression”.

Ms Ressa, the Philippines’ first Nobel Laureate, is the CEO of Rappler, a digital news organization well known for its investigations into disinformation and President Rodrigo Duterte’s brutal five-year war on drugs. She openly criticizes Mr. Duterte, whose government has filed seven criminal charges against her, including cyber defamation and tax evasion.

Friday’s decision came after days of mounting international pressure to allow Ms Ressa to attend the ceremony, to be held in Oslo on December 10.

Earlier this week, the United Nations urged the Philippines to allow Ms. Ressa to visit Norway, saying it was “Very concerned” about the restrictions placed on it. The International Press Institute warned that Ms. Ressa’s blocking of the ceremony “puts the Philippines in the company of some of the most repressive regimes in history. “

The last time a government blocked a Nobel Laureate from receiving an award was in 2010, when China blocked dissident Liu Xiaobo from doing so. The only other time an award was not received was in 1936, when the Peace Prize was awarded to Carl von Ossietzky, a German journalist held in a concentration camp by Nazi Germany.

Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov, leader of the Polish solidarity movement, Lech Walesa and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi from Myanmar were also banned by their governments from attending, but their family members were allowed to receive the award in their name.

“We would like to think that the Court of Appeal reached the resolution regardless of public opinion,” said Me Te, counsel for Ms. Ressa. “But the Court of Appeal is made up of human beings who know what’s going on. So, of course, whatever they read can influence their thinking.

Ms Ressa is due to fly to Oslo from Manila on Dec. 8, according to Mr Te.

On Thursday, a coalition of Filipino groups made up of human rights activists and academics called on the government to allow Ressa to travel to Oslo because her presence at the ceremony is “symbolic, urgent and necessary.”

“This brings great honor and recognition not only to Ms. Ressa, but to the Philippines, to the Filipinos present and unborn, and to all the journalists she represents through this award,” the group said.

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