Why the Nobel Peace Prize Matters This Year


Oct 6, 2022


Image Credits - Britannica

Mohammed Zubair and Pratik Sinha, the fact-checking duo tirelessly dampening flames of misinformation in India, were announced as this year’s favorites to win the Nobel Peace Prize. TIME magazine’s prediction noted that the pair have “relentlessly been battling misinformation in India, where the Hindu nationalist BJP party has been accused of frequently stoking discrimination against Muslims.”

Irrespective of whether they win or not, the news cements the link between truth-telling and xenophobic violence in the country. In other words, it reiterates the deliberate creation of an ecosystem of misinformation; the prediction itself, indirectly, implicates the complicity of the state.

TIME further noted that Zubair and Sinha “methodologically debunked rumors and fake news circulating on social media and called out hate speech.” Previously, the honor has been conferred upon individuals for their role in alleviating a conflict — usually after the conflict at hand passes. Many have received the honor for their role in negotiating or mediating settlements, agreements, or treaties that then mark the end of some form of tension.

Others have won it for their role in trying to address a much larger, ongoing systemic issue: poverty, hunger, and other global concerns that can’t be pinpointed to a single place. Often, the award is bestowed upon entire organizations dedicated to solving each of these: the European Union, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees were some entities who’ve been awarded.

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The Nobel Peace Prize had a controversial history: in 1973, Henry Kissinger and Le Duc Tho jointly won the prize for negotiating an armistice in the Vietnam War. But the latter declined the prize, stating that peace was not yet established in Vietnam. This moment spoke to some enduring questions about when the prize is given, and what really constitutes peace. That’s what makes this year’s favorite unique: it reflects an evolution of what peace means and, in doing so, recognizes India as a place where there’s an absence of it. Moreover, it recognizes that Zubair’s and Sinha’s work is ongoing and taking place amid an active crisis — not one that has passed, nor one that is global, but one that’s specifically located in time and space.

Last year’s awardees, Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov, were journalists too — honored for their role in defending press freedom and exposing abuses of power. Recognizing fact-checking, then, takes the tradition of journalism itself further: it shows that sometimes, the weapons and abuses of power that need exposure are in the news itself.

Amid the declining autonomy of the press in India, the news exists as a snake that eats its own tail: often siding with state-sanctioned narratives, violating journalistic ethics, and playing an active role in undermining the truth even as it claims the credibility of being the truth itself. News channels have been known to doctor clips of politicians, citing a veterinary procedure as evidence of cattle slaughter, stringing together videos to “prove” that Muslims are waging jihad by spitting in food, among other claims. Most of these disproportionately target Muslims in inflammatory ways that, if unchecked, threaten to prompt violence and unrest.

Moreover, in recognizing fact-checking as peace work, the projection affirms the importance of debunking misinformation and, by extension, points out a new systemic issue in active development: the role of the Internet in fostering violence. It validates several concerns currently at play in the country — the clampdown on dissent, sinking press freedom, social media-fuelled hate speech, targeted misinformation against minority communities, and how digital spaces serve as a tool to help translate bigotry into real-life violence.

The Nobel Prizes are controversial awards, often accused of unfair snubs and sexist, racist exclusions. But they nevertheless carry international legitimacy, and serve to validate systemic issues and linkages that activists spend their life’s work pointing out. In 2020, the Peace Prize explicitly linked hunger with conflict, and stressed the importance of food security amid rising challenges like climate change and the Covid19 pandemic. In a similar vein, a potential win for fact-checkers would link digital misinformation with majoritarianism.


Written By Rohitha Naraharisetty

Rohitha Naraharisetty is an Associate Editor at The Swaddle. Previously, she was a freelance writer and independent researcher working in the intersection of gender, social movements, and international relations. She can be found on Instagram at @rohitha_97 or on Twitter at @romimacaronii.


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