Detained Reuters journalists win British Journalism Award
12:00 AM, December 12, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 04:34 AM, December 12, 2018

Time 'Person of The Year'

'Guardians' honoured

Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was murdered in October at his country's Istanbul consulate, was named Time magazine's "Person of the Year" yesterday, an honour he shared with other targeted journalists recognised as "guardians" of the truth.

Among those named with Khashoggi were Philippine journalist Maria Ressa, Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo -- currently imprisoned in Myanmar -- and the workforce of the Capital Gazette in the US city of Annapolis, including five staff members killed in a June shooting.

The collective of journalists, the most well known of which is Washington Post reporter Khashoggi, will grace the covers of Time magazine's next issue after the publication's editors decided they had come to represent 2018 more than any other individual or group for the sacrifices they made in the “war on truth”.

Time noted several examples worldwide of journalists being muzzled by unfair means by governments. Bangladeshi photographer Shahidul Alam was jailed for more than 100 days for making “false” and “provocative” statements after criticising Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in an interview about mass protests in Dhaka.

The honour for press comes amid alarming trend of shrinking journalistic freedom worldwide. A record number of journalists -- 262 in total -- were imprisoned in 2017, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, which expects the total to be high again this year.

And it comes at a time when budding authoritarians have advanced by blurring the difference between tyranny and democracy.

In Sudan, freelance journalist Amal Habani was arrested while covering economic protests, detained for 34 days and beaten with electric rods. In Brazil, reporter Patricia Campos Mello was targeted with threats after reporting that supporters of President-elect Jair Bolsonaro had funded a campaign to spread false news stories on WhatsApp. And Victor Mallet, Asia news editor for the Financial Times, was forced out of Hong Kong after inviting an activist to speak at a press club event against the wishes of the Chinese government.

"As we looked at the choices it became clear that the manipulation and abuse of truth is really the common thread in so many of this year's major stories, from Russia to Riyadh to Silicon Valley," Time editor-in-chief Edward Felsenthal said.

"So we chose to highlight four individuals and one group who have taken great risks in pursuit of greater truth, starting with Jamal Khashoggi."

Time, which has awarded the "Person of the Year" title annually since 1927, published four different magazine covers for this week's edition, each one spotlighting different honourees.

It is the first time someone has been chosen posthumously for the prestigious cover.

Explaining the decision to honour dissident journalist Khashoggi, who was a US resident and Washington Post columnist, Felsenthal said it was "very rare that a person's influence grows so immensely in death."

"His murder has prompted a global reassessment of the Saudi crown prince and a really long overdue look at the devastating war in Yemen," he added.

The CIA has concluded with "medium-to-high confidence" that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman probably ordered Khashoggi's October 2 assassination, according to US media reports.

Fellow honourees Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, exposed the extrajudicial killing of 10 Rohingya men during a brutal military crackdown in Myanmar's western Rakhine state last year.

They have been imprisoned for nearly a year, and were convicted under a state secrets act in September. A court will hear their appeal later this month.

Marie Ressa, meanwhile, is CEO of Rappler, a Philippine news site hit by a string of government efforts to shut it down over its critical tone of President Rodrigo Duterte.

She faces a charge -- which she has dismissed as "manufactured" -- that Rappler provided false information to tax authorities, and risks up to 10 years behind bars.

The staff of the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland, also share this year's title. Their newsroom was attacked by gunman Jarrod Rodman in June, leaving four journalists and a sales assistant dead.

US President Donald Trump, the 2016 "Person of the Year," was the bookmakers' favorite this year but in the end was runner-up.

Minutes after the unveiling, he launched the latest of his regular attacks on the media via Twitter, accusing the "Fake News" of misreporting his struggle to fill the key position of White House chief of staff.

US Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating possible collusion between Russia and Trump's 2016 election campaign, was ranked third.

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