February 2, 2015 / 4:32 PM / 3 years ago

Russian paper, Pope Francis and Eritrean priest among Nobel Peace nominees

* Novaya Gazeta has exposed corruption in Russia

* Media freedom may be a focus after Charlie Hebdo killings

* Pope Francis has put spotlight on social justice

* Nominees include Snowden and priest helping African migrants

By Alister Doyle

OSLO, Feb 2 (Reuters) - A Russian newspaper critical of President Vladimir Putin is among the nominations for the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize, along with Edward Snowden, Pope Francis and a priest helping African migrants.

Although the committee has marked the last four 10-year anniversaries of the 1945 bombing of Hiroshima by honouring the fight against nuclear proliferation, there was little speculation among Nobel watchers that the trend would continue.

Thousands of people, including all members of parliaments, can make nominations, which must be postmarked no later than Feb. 1. The $1.2 million award will be announced in October.

The Norwegian Nobel Institute does not publish names of nominees, but Norwegian experts compile lists.

Pope Francis has been nominated for stressing social justice and care for the environment, and former U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden, who leaked details of U.S. electronic surveillance, for showing how citizens are monitored with few democratic controls.

Kristian Berg Harpviken, head of the Peace Research Institute, Oslo, named as his favourite Mussie Zerai, a priest of Eritrean origin living in Italy who has helped some of the thousands of African migrants who have risked their lives to cross the Mediterranean.

"The migration crisis is worsening day by day," he said.

Harpviken put Novaya Gazeta, a Russian investigative newspaper critical of Putin, second for its work to expose corruption.

He said such an award "would also more widely speak to the issue of media freedom" after the Islamist attack on the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo last month in which 12 people were killed.

Harpviken doubted whether Charlie Hebdo itself could win, since many Muslims oppose the newspaper, known for lampooning Islam and other religions.

Islamist violence was in any case condemned last year with a prize shared by Pakistani teenager Malala Yousafzai, who campaigns for girls' education and survived a 2012 assassination attempt by Taliban gunmen.

Asle Sveen, a historian and expert on the prize, said the secretive five-member committee was unlikely to feel bound by the nuclear anniversary.

The International Atomic Energy Agency won in 2005, ban-the-bomb scientist Joseph Rotblat in 1995, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War in 1985 and Soviet human rights campaigner and nuclear scientist Andrei Sakharov in 1975.

The last non-nuclear winner in a year ending in a '5' was the U.N. Children's Fund, UNICEF, which won in 1965.

"I think it is more of a coincidence that you have these intervals," Sveen said.

Harpviken said one anti-proliferation candidate could be Nihon Hidankyo, who represents the sufferers of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. (Reporting By Alister Doyle; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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