Time’s Persons of the Year – The Guardians and the War on Truth


Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was murdered in October at his country’s Istanbul consulate, was on Tuesday, December 11, named Time magazine’s “Person of the Year” alongside several other journalists under siege in their respective countries, AFP reports:

The magazine also honored Rappler CEO Maria Ressa of the Philippines, Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo – currently imprisoned in Myanmar – and the staff of the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland, including 5 members killed in a June shooting. Time dubbed them “The Guardians” – a collection of journalists from around the world who faced challenges in the past year – “for taking great risks in pursuit of greater truths, for the imperfect but essential quest for facts, for speaking up and for speaking out.”


“In a world where budding authoritarians have advanced by blurring the difference (between tyranny and democracy), there was a clarity in the spectacle of a tyrant’s fury visited upon a man armed only with a pen,” Time stated in its piece “The Guardians and the War on Truth” about the 2018 Person of the Year honorees.

“Because the strongmen of the world only look strong. All despots live in fear of their people. To see genuine strength, look to the spaces where individuals dare to describe what’s going on in front of them.”

When Rappler’s Maria Ressa realized she was about to be arrested for doing her job, she reacted in the manner she had learned reporting from conflict zones throughout her 33-year career in journalism: she took a deep breath and assessed the best way to proceed. The situation was manageable, the charges could be overcome, and Ressa, as she had done countless times before, says she resolved to “hold the line,” Time’s Joseph Hincks writes:

For Ressa [the charges] are symptom of an even deeper malady in the Philippines, which she describes as “ground zero” in the global war on disinformation. “The kind of civil discourse that used to be necessary for democracy—one, we all agreed on facts, two, we actually exchanged ideas—this is gone,” she says. RTWT

What Ressa and her colleagues are dealing with is “a direct assault on press freedom in the Philippines” according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). Less than two weeks after the CPJ presented her with an international Press Freedom award, the veteran journalist and former CNN bureau chief posted bail for charges of tax evasion. She is expected to be arraigned February next year.

Dean Jackson of the National Endowment for Democracy’s International Forum for Democratic Studies spoke with Maria Ressa about her experience working as a journalist in a rapidly deteriorating media environment and the impact of social media on the trajectory of democracy in Southeast Asia.

The National Democratic Institute (NDI) and its chair and former US secretary of state Madeleine Albright denounced “measures being taken by the Philippine government to silence Rappler” and Ressa.

“Democracy cannot live without the freedom of the press. The brave work of independent media is necessary to protect the truth and defend democratic discourse,” NDI Chairman Madeleine Albright said in a statement. In 2017, Rappler received NDI’s W. Averell Harriman Democracy Award for its work in fighting disinformation and fake news.

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