Philippines court to allow Nobel laureate Ressa to go to Norway


FILE PHOTO: Filipino journalist and Rappler CEO Maria Ressa, one of 2021 Nobel Peace Prize winners, poses for a portrait in Taguig City, Metro Manila, Philippines, October 9, 2021. REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez/File Photo

MANILA (Reuters) - Philippine journalist Maria Ressa will be allowed to travel so she can accept her Nobel Peace Prize in person after a court gave her permission to leave the Southeast Asian country to visit Norway later this month.

Ressa, who is subject to travel restrictions due to the legal cases she faces in the Philippines, shared the Peace Prize with Russian investigative journalist Dmitry Muratov, in an endorsement of free speech under fire worldwide.

The prize is the first Nobel Peace Prize for journalists since the German Carl von Ossietzky won it in 1935 for revealing his country's secret post-war rearmament programme.

In its ruling on Friday, the Philippine Court of Appeals granted Ressa's request to travel to receive the award on Dec. 10, noting that "she is not a flight risk."

The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided this year's award ceremony will be an in-person event taking place in Oslo City Hall.

Ressa's news site, Rappler, has had its licence suspended and she is embroiled in various legal cases. Supporters say she is being targeted due to her scrutiny of government policies, including a bloody war on drugs launched by President Rodrigo Duterte.

Free on bail as she appeals against a six-year prison sentence handed down last year for a libel conviction, Ressa is facing five tax evasion charges and a corporate case with the regulator.

The Philippines saw its ranking in the 2021 World Press Freedom Index drop two notches to 138 out of 180 countries, and the Committee to Protect Journalists ranks the Philippines seventh in the world in its impunity index, which tracks deaths of media members whose killers go free.

The government denies hounding media and says any problems organisations face are legal, not political. It says it believes in free speech.

The United Nations on Monday had urged the Philippines to allow Ressa to travel to Norway to accept the award.

(Reporting by Karen Lema; Editing by Ed Davies)

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