Ressa awarded Golden Pen of Freedom
The Golden Pen of Freedom, the annual press freedom award of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-Ifra), has been given to Maria Ressa, cofounder, chief executive officer and executive editor of online news site Rappler.
The award was presented to Ressa during the opening ceremony of the 70th World News Media Congress and 25th World Editors Forum in Cascais, Portugal, on Wednesday in recognition of her unwavering commitment to the values of a free press, as well as her determination to continue publishing stories of vital importance for democracy in the Philippines amid intense pressure from the government and its supporters.
More than 700 publishers, CEOs and editors in chief from the global news industry watched as Ressa received the award.
“You don’t really know who you are until you’re forced to fight to defend it,” Ressa said in her acceptance speech.
“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,” she said.
There was no immediate comment from Malacañang, which has banned Rappler from covering President Duterte because of its critical reporting.
Rappler is facing a raft of judicial and legal cases, tax inspection and administrative investigation brought by government agencies.
In January, the Securities and Exchange Commission revoked Rappler’s license of incorporation on grounds of foreign ownership. Rappler is fighting the decision.
“We honor a genuinely courageous journalist, a dedicated media pioneer and a true believer in the power that the craft of journalism can have,” Dave Callaway, World Editors Forum president and editor and CEO of The Street, said in presenting the award to Ressa.
“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 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.”
Ressa has been a journalist 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.
Ressa headed the news and current affairs division of ABS-CBN for six years beginning in 2005.
Her interest and talents in technology and new media were an impetus for her becoming one of the founders and eventually the CEO of Rappler, a social news network that aims to inspire community engagement and fuel social change.
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.
“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,” Callaway said.
“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,” he said
“To the men and women of Rappler, this is your courage. You inspire me,” Ressa said.
“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,” she said.
WAN-Ifra works to protect the rights of journalists across the world to operate free media and provide its members with professional services to help their business prosper in a digital world and perform their crucial role in open societies.
With 80 national association members representing 18,000 publications in 120 countries, the group has formal representative status in the United Nations, Unesco and the Council of Europe.