The Philippines Court of Appeals said Friday it would allow journalist Maria Ressa to travel to Norway to receive the Nobel Peace Prize after the government tried to ban her from attending the ceremony.
Ms Ressa’s lawyer Ted Te filed an appeal last month for his client after the Solicitor General of the Philippines said the journalist could not travel to Norway. The government called her a flight risk because her “recurring criticism of the Philippine legal processes in the international community reveals her lack of respect for the judiciary.”
Ms. Ressa received the Peace Prize in October along with Dmitri A. Muratov, a Russian investigative journalist, for “their courageous fight for freedom of expression”.
Ms. Ressa, the first Nobel laureate from the Philippines, is the chief executive officer of Rappler, a digital news organization known for investigating disinformation and President Rodrigo Duterte’s brutal five-year drug war. She has been an outspoken critic of Mr Duterte, whose government has filed seven charges against her, including cyber-dragging and tax evasion.
Friday’s ruling came after days of mounting international pressure to allow Ms Ressa to attend the ceremony, which will take place in Oslo on December 10.
Earlier this week, the United Nations urged the Philippines to allow Ms Ressa to travel to Norway, saying she was “very concerned” about the restrictions imposed on her. The International Press Institute warned that blocking Ms. Ressa from the ceremony “puts the Philippines in the company of some of the most repressive regimes in history.”
The last time a government banned a Nobel laureate from receiving a prize was in 2010, when China barred dissident Liu Xiaobo from doing so. The only other time no prize was collected was in 1936, when the peace prize went to Carl von Ossietzky, a German journalist held in a concentration camp by Nazi Germany.
Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov, the leader of the Polish Solidarity Movement, Lech Walesa and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar were also barred from participating by their governments, but their relatives were allowed to receive the award on their behalf.
“We believe the Court of Appeal has reached a decision independently of public opinion,” said Mr Te, Ms Ressa’s lawyer. “But the Court of Appeal consists of people who know what is going on. So of course anything they read can affect how they think.”
according to mr. Te Ms. Ressa will fly from Manila to Oslo on December 8th. She still needs permission from two more courts to travel because of the pending cases against her.
On Thursday, a coalition of groups from the Philippines, made up of human rights activists and academics, called on the government to allow Ms Ressa to go 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 also to the Philippines, both resident and unborn Filipinos, and all the journalists she represents with this award,” the group said.