The Asian Center for Journalism at the Ateneo de Manila University salutes Time Magazine’s Guardians of Truth, journalists from all over the world who, in 2018, confronted the attacks on the press head-on, in the process finding themselves becoming the biggest news stories of the year.
These journalists, Time said, were those who have been “targeted for their work” and were represented by four individuals and one group whose faces appear in the four covers: Maria Ressa of Rappler in the Philippines, Jamal Kashoggi of Saudi Arabia, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo of Myanmar, and the staff of the Capital Gazette, a community newspaper in Maryland.
Kashoggi died a brutal death inside the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Turkey, while five journalists of the Capital Gazette were killed when a gunman opened fire on the newspaper’s office in Annapolis, Maryland.
Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo have been in jail since December last year and were recently convicted by the Myanmar courts for obtaining documents in connection with their reportage of the Rohingya crisis. Ressa faces four tax evasion cases in what is believed to be the latest in a series of reprisals against Rappler for its reportage on Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte’s so-called war on drugs.
That two of the four Time covers show journalists from Southeast Asia reveals the state of the press in the region, where journalists are increasingly finding it difficult and dangerous to do their work.
For Time‘s Person of the Year issue, photojournalist Moises Saman of Magnum photographed 26 journalists from seven countries. From Asia, there is Bangladeshi photojournalist Shahidul Alam who was arrested without charges in August and spent months without a trial until his release a few weeks ago. Also included is Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, a Vietnamese blogger sentenced to 10 years in prison for criticizing the Communist Party of Vietnam. She was released in October in exchange for exile in the United States.
“[I]n a world where budding authoritarians have advanced by blurring the difference, there was a clarity in the spectacle of a tyrant’s fury visited upon a man armed only with a pen,” Time‘s Karl Vick wrote. “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.”