RSF awards Inday Espina-Varona with Press Freedom Independence Prize

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Inday Espina-Varona dedicates Press Freedom Prize to Filipino journalists. Image from Facebook.

Reporters Sans Frontiers (RSF) has honored Filipino journalist Ma. Salvacion “Inday” Espina-Varona with the Press Freedom Prize for Independence in ceremonies highlighting the importance of press freedom and safety of journalists, held in London on November 8.

The contributing editor for ABS-CBN News won the Reporters Without Borders awards category for “The Prize for Independence” where she competed against nominees from Ghana, Hungary , and Pakistan.

The RSF statement said it recognized Espina-Varona “for her extensive reporting on sensitive issues and her marshaling of the #BabaeAko campaign, the Filipino equivalent of #MeToo that is fighting back against the misogyny of the Duterte regime.”

Reporters Without Borders gives the Independence Prize to “journalists, media or NGOs for resisting pressure (including financial, political, economic or religious pressure) or because of the values and rules that enable them to resist.”

Espina-Varona posted her speech on Facebook, dedicating her prize to her fellow Filipino journalists.

“Thank you, Reporters Without Borders for this honor. I share this with embattled Philippine colleagues: the 185 killed since the 1986 restoration of a fragile, perpetually threatened democracy, 12 of them in the first two years of President Rodrigo Duterte’s rule.

This is also for colleagues who face death threats, vilification campaigns, and revocation of access to coverage, for doing what journalists are supposed to do — questioning official acts and claims, especially on issues of human rights and corruption.

Other threats are more insidious — like having journalists becoming witnesses to cases filed by cops in the aftermath of raids, practically a quid pro quo for continued access to police operations.”

This is also for colleagues who face death threats, vilification campaigns, and revocation of access to coverage, for doing what journalists are supposed to do — questioning official acts and claims, especially on issues of human rights and corruption.

In the same post she encouraged people to support the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines campaign to repeal Republic Act No. 9165, or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 that requires journalists to sign as witnesses to the inventory of contraband and other items seized during anti-drug operations.

“There is another grave problem we face: the proposed draconian changes to the law that would make terrorists of practically all critics of the government and make journalists and media accessories whenever we give voice to persons and groups the government deems “terrorist” — practically all dissenters,” adds Espina-Varona in her social media post.

The award-winning journalist spoke of her colleagues in Philippine journalist who continue to do their job despite all the challenges of the work.

“If I am independent, it is because there are colleagues and fellow citizens who fight for rights and freedoms, who refuse to be silent in the face of thousands of murders and other injustices, who fight on despite threats, arrests and torture, whose words and deeds speak from beyond the grave.

Filipino journalists are brave because we come after the many who showed courage over hundreds of years. And we are brave because our people are brave.

We cannot let them down. We will never forget — never forget the dark past. And never forget that we triumphed over that past and will again overcome.”

RSF Secretary-General Christophe Deloire said, “We hope that this recognition will offer them (Espina-Varona and other awardees) vital support and protection as they carry on their important work in the face of growing pressure against independent media in their home countries.”

Inday Espina-Varona joins the list of RSF Press Freedom Awardees which include the renowned late Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, imprisoned Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, courageous Syrian journalist Zaina Erhaim, and embattled Turkish newspaper Cumhuriyet.

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