Philippine website Rappler's Editor and CEO Maria Ressa wins global press freedom award

Rappler CEO Maria Ressa (second from left) speaking at the forum, Keep It Real: Truth and Trust In The Media, in 2017. ST FILE PHOTO

MANILA - The executive editor and CEO of Philippine news website Rappler, Ms Maria Ressa, was awarded the Golden Pen of Freedom Award by the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) on Thursday (June 7).

The annual award aims to shine a spotlight on repressive governments and journalists who fight them and comes as Rappler faces attacks from the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, who has condemned Rappler's reportage on the government's war on drugs, alleged human rights abuses and other controversies as "fake news".

"My heart breaks when I look at what our young reporters and staff have to live with - and the courage they show in the face of brute force and impunity... the respect they continue to show authorities, the nightmares they fight at night, the mission that lives inside them," Ms Ressa said in her acceptance speech at the awards function in Portugal.

"But this award goes beyond Rappler," she said. "For the Filipino journalists in the audience, please stand up. This is for all Filipino journalists just trying to do our jobs."

"This is for all Filipinos who continue to fight for our values - to stand for the rule of law and to defend press freedom!" she added.

WAN-IFRA has 18,000 members from publications across 120 countries, including Singapore and the Philippines. Its mission is "to protect the rights of journalists around the world to operate free media".

Mr David Callaway, president of the World Editors Forum, who introduced Ms Ressa, described her as "a genuinely courageous journalist, a dedicated media pioneer, and a true believer in the power that the craft of journalism can have".

Ms Ressa said Rappler has been "fighting impunity on two fronts" for the past two years, in the government and on social media website Facebook.

She alleged impunity in government, "which is fundamentally changing our Constitution and our way of life, starting with a brutal drug war."

On Facebook, she said: "We know its best and worst: it enabled Rappler's fast growth and also later became the battleground for online state-sponsored hate to silence critical voices and - in David's words - to 'occupy' the public space."

"You don't really know who you are until you're forced to fight to defend it. 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," said Ms Ressa.

"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."

"My name is Maria Ressa. We are Rappler, and we will hold the line," she said, concluding her speech.

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