In Era of Fake News Attacks, Journalists Could Win Nobel Prize

The Norwegian Nobel Committee may choose to award this year’s peace price to journalists fighting against misinformation.

The top pick for the 2020 prize is the Committee to Protect Journalists, the Peace Research Institute Oslo -- an independent academic institution that ranks possible winners -- said on Monday. Reporters Without Borders was also mentioned as a contender, as were individual outlets such as Russia’s Novaya Gazeta, PRIO’s director Henrik Urdal told reporters.

Press freedom and journalists have regularly emerged as potential favorites for the peace prize in previous years. But in 2020, the absence of a clear-cut favorite and the rise of “fake news” as a serious challenge to democracies could finally tip the scales in favor of journalism, Urdal said. This year’s Peace Prize will be announced Oct. 9.

“During conflict, it’s extremely important that journalism contributes to provide information about what’s happening,” Urdal said. “There is a broader topic which is becoming ever more present and clear, and it’s the larger issue of fake news and misinformation campaigns, not only in theaters of war.”

Challenging Trump

Such a prize would also be an implicit challenge to U.S. President Donald Trump, Urdal said.

PRIO has Sudan activist Alaa Salah in second place and Russian opposition figure Alexey Navalny -- who was recently poisoned -- in third position on its list, Urdal said.

Asle Sveen, a Norwegian historian who’s written books about the peace prize and who participated in the meeting with foreign journalists in Oslo on Monday, also pointed to Reporters Without Borders, and has teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg as his second pick.

Urdal and Sveen handicap the candidates ahead of the award, and they’ve had some success in predicting previous winners. They aren’t involved in the committee’s selection process.

Members of government, lawmakers and academics from all over the world can put forward candidates for the prize. A total of 318 names were sent in for this year’s award. In 2019, the winner was Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, and past laureates include the European Union and U.S. President Barack Obama.

Trump has been nominated before, and was recently named for the second time by a Norwegian right-wing, anti-immigration lawmaker for the 2021 prize. Urdal and Sveen, like bookmakers, see Trump as an outlier.

“Trump is more likely to get the Nobel Prize in Literature for his tweets than the Nobel Peace Prize,” Urdal said.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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