Rappler CEO Maria Ressa is the second Filipino to be part of the prestigious “Person of the Year” roster of Time magazine after late President Cory Aquino in 1986.
Ressa, who is facing several tax evasion charges, joins the late Jamal Khashoggi, detained Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe and the Capital Gazette, a small newspaper, in Time’s list of “The Guardians.”
The group of journalists appear in four variant covers of the magazine.
— TIME (@TIME) December 11, 2018
Her inclusion came days after she posted bail of P204,000 for four of the five tax cases the government filed against her in 2018.
Filipino women named as “Person of the Year”
Time described Ressa and Rappler, the news website she helped establish in 2012, as fearless in their reporting of President Rodrigo Duterte’s propaganda machine on social media.
“While the Philippine government denies a political motivation for the charges against Ressa and Rappler, the news site she founded in 2012, international observers regard them as the latest salvo in President Rodrigo Duterte’s bid to muzzle critical press and silence criticism of his administration’s deadly war on drugs,” said Joseph Hincks.
Ressa told Time that being a journalist during Duterte’s presidency is more difficult than her work as a war zone correspondent before.
“I’ve been a war zone correspondent. I’ve planned coverage when one side is shooting against the other side. That is easy compared to what we’re dealing with now,” she said.
Her supporters use the hashtag #Holdtheline as they lauded her for the recognition.
This was her statement on the possibility of getting arrested upon her arrival in Manila on December 2. She went to the United States to receive the international Press Freedom Award given to her by the Committee to Protect Journalists.
The veteran reporter had been indicted over three counts of violating Section 255 of the Tax Code for failing to provide the correct information on her Income Tax Return for 2015, Value Added Tax returns for the third and fourth quarters of that year.
Back in 1986, Aquino, the wife of late Senator Ninoy Aquino, held many “first’s.” She was hailed as the first female president of the country and the first Filipino to be the Woman of the Year.
“Whatever else happens in her rule, Aquino has already given her country a bright, and inviolate, memory. More important, she has also resuscitated its sense of identity and pride,” said Time.
Aquino that time said that being given with such recognition is an achievement of the Filipino people.
“I don’t want to say that this is my achievement. It is the Filipino people together who were able to believe in themselves because of what they were able to do in the election and then in the revolution. Because of this belief in each other they were now also able to look up to their leaders and follow their leaders,” she said.
She succeeded late Dictator Ferdinand Marcos as the leader of the country after he and his family were exiled to Hawaii,
Her son Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III became president in 2016.
The Guardians and the War on Truth
Edward Felsenthal, Time’s editor-in-chief, explained that his team decided to feature journalists this year because of their bravery in surpassing risks just to tell impactful stories.
“This year we are recognizing four journalists and one news organization who have paid a terrible price to seize the challenge of this moment: Jamal Khashoggi, Maria Ressa, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, and the Capital Gazette of Annapolis, Md.,” Felsenthal’s statement read.
“They are representatives of a broader fight by countless others around the world—as of Dec. 10, at least 52 journalists have been murdered in 2018—who risk all to tell the story of our time,” he added.
Jamal Khashoggi, a prominent Saudi journalist who was a known critic of the Saudi government, was murdered after entering his country’s Istanbul consulate for divorce documents.
Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, Reuters journalists from Bangladesh, were detained in their home country for documenting the deaths of 10 Rohingya Muslims.
Five members of the Capital Gazette or the Capital, the local paper in the city of Annapolis in the state of Maryland, were gunned down inside their newsroom last June 28.