Rappler chief Maria Ressa was awarded the Golden Pen of Freedom at the 70th World News Media Congress held in Portugal.
Ressa received the Golden Pen of Freedom at the annual press freedom award given by the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) during the gathering of over 700 chief editors, publishers and CEOs who are taking steps to ensure the sustainability of the news industry amidst attacks on media freedom.
The award for the CEO and Chief Editor of social news network Rappler “recognised Ms Ressa’s unwavering commitment to the values of a free press, as well as her determination to continue exposing stories of vital importance for democracy in the Philippines amidst intense pressure from the government and its supporters,” cites WAN-IFRA.
“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, editor and CEO of The Street in presenting the award to the co-founder of Rappler, the pioneering social news network of the Philippines.
“We stand in solidarity with Maria Ressa and her news organisation 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 continued. “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.”
Ressa has responded to threats by being vocal about denouncing online harassment and warning of the negative effects for democracy of the increasing moves to discredit professional journalism. To this end the Filipino journalist actively participates in press freedom campaigns such as the UNESCO #25secondsforpressfreedom for World Press Freedom Day in May 2018, and the #MyFightAgainstImpunity social media campaign for the 2017 International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists.
“You don’t really know who you are until you’re forced to fight to defend it,” Ressa said in her acceptance speech at the opening ceremonies of the 70th World News Media Congress and 25th World Editors Forum. “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.”
“This is for all Filipinos who continue to fight for our values – to stand for the rule of law and to defend press freedom,” declared Ressa to a standing ovation crowd.
Ressa’s profile states how she views people and media: “Despite documenting some of the worst disasters and uprisings in Southeast Asia, she believes in the goodness of human nature and in the transformative powers of media and technology.”
Ressa has been a journalist in Asia for over 30 years. She was a senior investigative reporter for CNN covering stories such as that of the Jemaah Islamiya and the Al-Qaeda before she decided to move to Manila where she co-founded the independent production company Probe which pioneered internationally-competitive Philippine television shows.
In 2005, Ms Ressa 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.
Rappler became one of the first websites in the Philippines to use online multimedia such as video, text, audio and photos, incorporating social media sites for distribution.
The Golden Pen of Freedom has been awarded to extraordinary journalists since 1961. Rappler’s Maria Ressa is the second Filipino to receive the laureate recognition after Joaquin Roces of The Manila Times was awarded in 1985.
Read the full text of her speech here courtesy of Rappler.