Pulitzer Prize winner Manny Mogato on Monday said Rappler CEO Maria Ressa’s Nobel Peace Prize was well-deserved and a milestone for anti-authoritarianism in the Philippines under President Rodrigo Duterte.

Journalists Ressa and Dmitry Muratov were awarded Nobels for their “​​efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace.”

In a Facebook post, Mogato said Ressa’s award was not only a recognition for journalism, but also for “standing up against leaders who have been silencing dissent and abusing basic human rights – freedom of expression and freedom of the press.”

“The Nobel Peace Prize was the loudest message to Vladimir Putin and Rodrigo Duterte. They cannot go on abusing their power, ruling like a dictator and sending political foes to jail,” Mogato, PressOnePH editor at large and columnist, said.

“Maria Ressa is the face of all Filipino journalists pushing back Duterte’s creeping authoritarian rule. Maria Ressa represents the Filipino people resisting Duterte’s brutal regime, which has killed thousands of poor drug users and peddlers as well as activists, community organizers and suspected Communist rebels and supporters,” he added.

Earlier this year, Duterte and Putin were named among 37 world leaders labeled as press freedom predators by media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

The RSF said Duterte imposes his predatory method in the Philippines by waging “total war” against independent media.

Philippine media outlets such as the Philippine Daily Inquirer, ABS-CBN and Rappler were common targets of Duterte’s attacks for covering his authoritarian excesses, it said.

The Philippines ranked 138th among 180 countries in the 2021 World Press Freedom Index.

Mogato, who won a Pulitzer Prize for international reporting with a team of Reuters journalists for “Duterte’s War,” a series that looked into Duterte’s bloody drug war in the Philippines, said there was de facto martial law in the country.

“There is de facto martial law. The number of people killed, detained, tortured and forcibly disappeared under Duterte exceeded 10,000 people who were victims of human rights abuses under Marcos’ 20 year rule,” he said.

Mogato also decried the notion that there was press freedom in the country because anyone could freely criticize Duterte.

“There is semblance of democracy but in reality the media is under threat. Media owners are under pressure to tone down criticism or face closure, like ABS-CBN, or face tax and corporate cases, like Rappler,” he said.

“Maria Ressa deserved the award. She shared it with all Filipino journalists and with the Filipino people,” he added. John Ezekiel J. Hirro