Literary org says founder F. Sionil Jose’s Nobel Peace Prize views are personal

October 11, 2021 - 2:40 PM
F. Sionil Jose
National Artist for Literature F. Sionil Jose (Image from People Asia)

A literary organization says it does not necessarily share the views of its founder, National Artist F. Sionil Jose, on journalist Maria Ressa‘s Nobel Peace Prize award.

In a Facebook statement on October 10, the Philippine Center of International PEN (Poets, Playwrights, Essayists, Novelists) stated that its members, including the founder, are “entitled to their own opinions.”

“The Board of Directors of the Philippine PEN wishes to clarify that the statement of Ramon Magsaysay Awardee for journalism F. Sionil Jose is a personal opinion and should be respected as such. PEN members are entitled to their own opinion, and they include no less than the Philippine PEN founder,” it said.

The organization also went on to recall its position on Ressa’s conviction for cyberlibel in 2020.

“The Philippine PEN Board of Directors issued a statement in 2020 decrying Ms. Ressa’s conviction for cyberlibel as a severe blow to press freedom,” it said.

“Earlier, the 85th Congress of the PEN International, hosted by the Philippine PEN in 2019, had passed a resolution supporting her. She was a plenary speaker during the Manila congress,” it added.

PEN also stressed that it denounced the different attacks on press freedom and human rights under the current administration.

It noted the following events and issues:

  • Denial of ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal
  • Killings of at least 19 journalists, citing data from the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility
  • Facebook purge of accounts linked to the military and the police

PEN stated that these incidents were “anathema” to the International Organization’s Charter, wherein:

“PEN stands for the principle of unhampered transmission of thought within each nation and between all nations, and members pledge themselves to oppose any form of suppression of freedom of expression in the country and community to which they belong, as well as throughout the world wherever this is possible.”

Malacañang, meanwhile, took three days to acknowledge Ressa’s Nobel prize, considered the most prestigious award in the world. Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque says the Palace agrees with “our national artists.”

“It’s a victory for a Filipina, We’re very happy for that. Wala namang utak-talangka dito sa Malacañang,” Roque said at a press conference on Monday.

He went on to quote Jose’s post, saying the “Philippine press is alive and well not because of Maria Ressa.”

The Nobel Peace Prize

Ressa and Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov won the highly prestigious Nobel Peace Prize 2021 on October 8.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee told a news conference that they were given the peace prize for their “courageous fight for freedom of expression in the Philippines and Russia.”

“At the same time, they are representatives of all journalists who stand up for this ideal in a world in which democracy and freedom of the press face increasingly adverse conditions,” Chairwoman Berit Reiss-Andersen of the Norwegian Nobel Committee was quoted as saying.

READ: Filipino journalist Ressa and Russian journalist Muratov win 2021 Nobel Peace Prize 

Jose, a recipient of prestigious awards National Artist for Literature and the Ramon Magsaysay Awardee for Journalism, posted a lengthy rant on October 9 on why he perceived Ressa did not deserve the award.

“Now, let us look at Maria Ressa’s credentials. The most important is she worked with CNN. I haven’t read anything memorable by her. She had developed important connections as this award has shown and was able to get foreign support for Rappler,” the author said.

He noted he was on the list of possible awardees of the Nobel Literature Prize before.

In 2016, Jose hoped for an explanation from the Nobel committee after they gave the Nobel Literature Prize to Bob Dylan, the first songwriter in history who was bestowed the recognition.

“In giving the literature prize to Bob Dylan, the Nobel committee has widened the traditional definition of literature as evidenced by the many awards in the past (Churchill, Russell). The Nobel committee may be asked to explain,” he was quoted as saying.