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Founder of Philippines news site wins press freedom award

  • Published at 11:04 am June 7th, 2018
Maria Ressa Courtesy

Ressa is co-founder, CEO, and executive editor of online news site, Rappler

The Golden Pen of Freedom, the annual press freedom award of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA), has been awarded to Maria Ressa this year.

Ressa is the co-founder, CEO, and executive editor of the online news site, Rappler.

The World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers presented the award to Ressa to recognize an “outstanding action … in the cause of press freedom.”

According to a statement issued by the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers, Ressa was honoured with the award as she continues to weather a near-constant storm of gender-based harassment from supporters of Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, who has aimed to crack down on dissenting voices in the country’s media.

The award, made in Cascais, Portugal, during the opening ceremony of the 70th World News Media Congress and 25th World Editors Forum, recognized Ressa’s unwavering commitment to the values of a free press.

“You don’t really know who you are until you’re forced to fight to defend it," Ressa said in her acceptance speech, delivered in front of over 700 publishers, CEOs, and editors-in-chief from the global news industry.

She said: "Then every battle you win – or lose ... every compromise you choose to make … or to walk away from … all these struggles define the values you live by and, ultimately, who you are. We at Rappler decided that when we look back at this moment a decade from now, we will have done everything we could: we did not duck, we did not hide."

“We honour a genuinely courageous journalist, a dedicated media pioneer, and a true believer in the power that the craft of journalism can have,” said Dave Callaway, World Editors Forum president, and editor and CEO of The Street, in presenting the award.

“We stand in solidarity with Maria Ressa and her news organization as together they face immense pressures, deeply personal attacks, and orchestrated attempts to undermine the professionalism and credibility of a news brand that has captured the public imagination,” Callaway said. 

He added: “They have not backed away from publicly denouncing either the policies or the hate that has come as a result of their coverage, and Rappler has continued the reporting that was at the heart of the onslaught - for that we applaud them.”

Maria Ressa has been a journalist in Asia for over 30 years, with a career spanning various media. As the bureau chief for CNN in Manila and Jakarta for nearly two decades she was a senior investigative reporter on terrorism in Southeast Asia. 

In 2005, she headed up the News and Current Affairs division of Philippine media company ABS-CBN, where for six years she worked to redefine journalism by combining traditional and innovative media models.

Callaway said: “We hope the Golden Pen deters those who seek to undermine media independence and the profession of journalism by showing the solidarity that the award represents.”

He added: “When all else fails, we should know that we have each other to rely upon if we are to continue making the kind of impact, breaking the sort of stories, and shining our light into those dark corners in a way our communities have come to expect. The way Rappler has been doing, and will keep on doing.”

"To the men and women of Rappler, this is your courage. You inspire me," Ressa said, adding: "But this award goes beyond Rappler... It’s for all Filipino journalists … for the men and women in government … ALL the Filipinos who continue to fight for our values."