NUJP: Maria Ressa’s Time honor recognizes 'tenacity of PH press'

MANILA, Philippines – The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) on Wednesday, December 12, hailed the selection of “targeted journalists,” including Rappler CEO Maria Ressa as Time “Person of the Year” for 2018.

In a statement, the NUJP noted the importance of the recognition as 2018 “has indeed been one of the most trying for the profession of truth as populist leaders and their governments seek to control, by fair means or foul, the free flow of information that people need to decide their personal and collective futures.”

“The selection of Maria is a recognition of the resistance and tenacity of the Philippine press in upholding truth and fighting for the freedom of the Press and expression,” it said.

The NUJP said populist leaders have weaponized social media and turned it "into a battleground into which armies of trolls have been deployed in a massive attempt to drown out the truth with threats, insults and lies.” (READ: Propaganda war: Weaponizing the internet

“The choice of the Guardians is also an affirmation of journalism’s value in our continuing search for genuine democracy, both in governance and in our social interactions, even as it also serves as a sobering reminder of the worsening threats to freedom of the press and of expression, and the need to educate and promote critical thinking among the people,” it added.

It added: “They have, however, failed miserably to silence the free press and independent journalists, and this failure has, in turn, helped encourage broader resistance among people to resist these efforts to twist the truth and shackle their minds.”

In the Philippines, media seen as critical of the Duterte administration have been under attack by President Rodrigo Duterte himself. (READ: Philippine media under attack: Press freedom after two years of Duterte)

Malacañang had insisted that press freedom in the country was “robust” as shown by the continued publication of reports critical of the Duterte administration.

But the string of cases filed against Rappler and Ressa – for alleged tax evasion – had been seen as an attack on press freedom. Human rights lawyer Chel Diokno said that by pursuing the cases, the government showed that "the law, to them, is just another instrument to bludgeon and neutralize those who dare to speak the truth to power." (READ: [OPINION] A new weapon against press freedom)

Duterte had hurled various unfounded allegations against Rappler, from calling it a source of "fake news" to being funded by the US Central Intelligence Agency. e  banned its reporters from covering all of his events and from entering Malacañang.

Aside from Rappler, other news agencies have been the subject of the President's threats, including ABS-CBN and the  Philippine Daily Inquirer.