On March 15, 2023, multiple mainstream media outlets in India quoted Asle Toje, Deputy Leader of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, as saying that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was 'the biggest contender for the Nobel Peace Prize'.
BOOM found these reports to be false; Toje was grossly misquoted on his comments on Modi, which was confirmed to BOOM by Olav Njølstad, Director of the Norwegian Nobel Institute, over an email conversation. "He was misquoted and never made any such statement," Njølstad said.
While Toje praised Modi's leadership, and acknowledged India's role as a global peace broker, when asked by reporters on Modi's prospects at winning the Peace Prize, Toje simply said, "I hope every leader in every nation is inspired to do the work that is necessary to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize." Furthermore, Njølstad also told BOOM that being a member of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Toje cannot publicly state the names of nominees shortlisted for the Nobel Peace Prize, nor speculate on their prospects at winning.
On March 14, Toje was invited to speak at a roundtable discussion for an event titled "Alternative Development Model & Peace", organised by India Center Foundation at the India International Center in New Delhi, during which he spoke for global peace, in the backdrop of the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict. Following the event, Toje gave several comments to the media on India's role in global cooperation for the purpose of peace.
Following their interactions with Toje, many media outlets reported in frenzy on how he had called Modi the 'biggest contender for the Nobel Peace Prize'.
Times Now shared a video of an interview by Toje, with the caption: "'PM Modi is the biggest contender for the Nobel Peace Prize'- says #AsleToje, Deputy leader of the Nobel Prize Committee". View an archive of the tweet (which has now been deleted) here.
Times Now's Editor-in-Chief Rahul Shivshankar also posted the same alleged quote by Toje on his Twitter account. ""PM Modi biggest contender for Nobel Peace Prize" says Asle Toje, Deputy leader of the Nobel Prize Committee," Shivshankar wrote in the tweet, which can be viewed here.
This quote was further carried by media outlets like Economic Times, the Times of India, Business Standard, Odisha TV, Lokmat Times, Lokmat Hindi, ABP Live, Jagran English, Mint, and CNBC TV18, along with India Today anchor Gaurav Sawant, right-leaning website OpIndia, and right-leaning Twitter account MeghUpdates, among others.
BOOM has emailed Rahul Shivshankar for a clarification on his tweet, and the claim run by Times Now. We will update this story if and when we get a reply.
BOOM viewed the live-streamed video of the 'ADM & Peace' event that was held on Tuesday, and closely inspected the address by Toje, along with his inputs in the Q&A session. We were unable to find a single statement from him that made any reference to Modi's prospects at winning the Nobel Peace Prize.
We also looked through all the news interviews he gave, including the ones that added the alleged quote by him on Modi being a frontrunner for the Nobel Peace Prize in the captions.
While Toje spoke highly of India, and of Modi, and acknowledged India's role as a global peace broker, we found that none of the comments to the media outlets contained the viral quote on Modi's prospects at winning the Nobel Peace Prize.
We also found many reporters asking Toje, directly or indirectly, whether Modi has a chance at the Nobel Peace Prize. In his response to The New Indian, and to ABP News, on this specific question, Toje says, "I hope every leader in every nation is inspired to do the work that is necessary to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize."
We reached out to Manoj Kumar Sharma, who was a part of Core Committee that organised the event on Tuesday. Sharma confirmed to BOOM that while he was present for the entirety of the event, no such comment was made my Toje to his knowledge.
"I was with the Norwegian Dy. Leader of the Nobel Prize Committee Mr. Asle Toje at IIC, and yesterday at ITC Maurya Sheraton Hotel, where Times Now Journalist had come to take the interview. Mr. Toje never said this in his keynote address at IIC on 14th March, and yesterday night Interview with Times Now Journalist," Sharma said.
This was further confirmed to BOOM by Olav Njølstad, Director of the Norwegian Nobel Institute, over an email conversation. "He was misquoted and never made any such statement," Njølstad said.
Toje Cannot Reveal Modi's Chances At Winning The Nobel
A quick look at the rules and regulations regarding the nomination and selection process for the Nobel Prize winners will reveal that Toje, being a member of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, is not at liberty to publicly state the names of nominees shortlisted for the Nobel Peace Prize, nor speculate on their chances at winning.
Nobel Prize's official website mentions that names of nominators and nominees cannot be divulged with the public for a period of 50 years.
How Are The Winners Selected?
Following the submission of nomination, a shortlist of candidates is prepared by the Norwegian Nobel Committee which is composed of five members appointed by the Norwegian parliament.
According to the Nobel Prize's website, there "305 candidates for the Nobel Peace Prize for 2023 out of which 212 are individuals and 93 are organizations".
The Norwegian Nobel Committee is also involved in finally choose the Nobel Peace Prize laureate.
Unlike the other prizes in Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Medicine, Literature and the prize in economic sciences, whose award ceremony occurs in Stockholm, Sweden, the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded in Oslo.
A video released by the official Twitter account of Nobel Prize explains the nomination and selection process. In the video, Toje himself explains that the winner of a Nobel Prize only gets to know about their victory an hour before it is publicly announced.
Last year, we saw several social media handles claim that Alt-News co-founders Mohammed Zubair and Pratik Sinha were in the 'list of favourites' for the Nobel Peace Prize. Our fact-check highlighted that this 'list' was not an official list by the Norwegian Nobel Committee, and was made with contributions from independent organisations that have no link to the committee or the selection process.
Read our story on the nomination and selection process for Nobel Prize winners to know more.
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