Maria Ressa, 3 others named SPJ Fellows of Society

MANILA, Philippines – Rappler CEO and Executive Editor Maria Ressa and 3 other journalists have been recognized as this year's Fellows of Society, the highest professional honor awarded by the esteemed Society of Professional Journalists, "for extraordinary contribution to the profession of journalism."

Sharing the honor are Terry Anderson, Nick Ut and, the late Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The Society of Professional Journalists is a 110-year-old broad-based journalism organization in the US "dedicated to encouraging the free practice of journalism and stimulating high standards of ethical behavior."

In a statement on its  website,   SPJ national president J. Alex Tarquinio said: "The theme of our Fellows awards this year is 'courage.' Faced with daunting challenges to our profession, from rising political repression to the deliberate spreading of misinformation, we are being challenged to stand up for our principles." 

“These 4 journalists embody everything that is good and true and necessary about our profession. While SPJ is inducting them as Fellows of the Society, our organization's highest honor, we are the ones who will be honored to be in the company of such brave, heroic journalists," Tarquinio said.

Ressa, Khashoggi, Anderson, and Ut will be honored as Fellows of the Society during the President’s Installation Banquet, the culmination of the Excellence in Journalism 2019 (EIJ19) conference in San Antonio, Texas, September 7.

During the event, the 3 and a representative of Khashoggi will each receive a jeweled key and plaque for their contributions.

“Thank you to the Society of Professional Journalists for helping us shine the light in the Philippines, ground zero in a global battle of truth,” Ressa said. “It takes courage to fight back against the insidious manipulation enabled by social media platforms and used as a new weapon against journalists: where lies laced with anger and hate spread faster than facts."

“The battle for truth is the battle of our generation. With technology as the accelerant, a lie told a million times becomes a fact. Without facts, we don't have truth. Without truth, there is no trust. This is why democracy is broken around the world. In our country, the bottom up exponential attacks on social media astroturfing and creating a bandwagon effect act to soften the ground before the same lies come top down from our top government officials," she added.

The honorees

Ressa,  a journalist in Asia for more than 30 years, is a former CNN bureau chief who reported in Manila and Jakarta before becoming CNN’s lead investigative reporter focusing on terrorism in Southeast Asia. She co-founded Rappler in 2012.

Ressa and Rappler have been under threat since President Rodrigo Duterte assumed power in 2016. The Philippine leader had repeatedly attacked Rappler in public addresses, following its investigative reports on his bloody campaign against illegal drugs. (READ: Rappler on latest case: Pattern of harassment has not stopped)

Ressa  is facing a string of cases in the Philippines as the Duterte administration slammed Rappler for its critical coverage. She was arrested on February 13 on a cyber libel charge. In March, she was arrested for alleged violation of the anti-dummy law. She posted bail in both cases. (LIST: Cases vs Maria Ressa, Rappler directors, staff since 2018)

Ressa – "Time Person of the Year" in 2018 and one of Time’s 100 most influential people of 2019 –  was conferred the Columbia Journalism Award at the Columbia Journalism School for "the depth and quality" of her work as well as her "courage and persistence in the field" in May this year.

She also also won the coveted Golden Pen of Freedom Award from the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA), and the 2018 Knight International Journalism Award.

Terry Anderson is a former foreign correspondent and professor of journalism. He served in the Associated Press bureaus in Asia and Africa before his designation as Middle East bureau chief. In 1985, he and several other Americans were abducted by  Shiite militant group Hezbollah in Beirut, Lebanon. He was released in 1991.

Jamal Khashoggi, a prominent Saudi journalist who contributed to the Washington Post, was named Time Person of the Year in December 2018  as part of a group of journalists called "The Guardians," along with Ressa.

He fled his country in September 2017 and wrote stories critical of the Saudi government. Over a year later, he was killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul where he was processing some marriage papers.

Nick Ut is a retired photojournalist with the Associated Press, where he worked for 51 years. During his time with AP, Ut covered the war in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam and won the Pulitzer Prize for Spot News Photography and World Press Photo of the Year for his June 8, 1972, photo “The Terror of War” depicting children fleeing from a napalm bombing on their village, including a naked 9-year-old girl Kim Phuc. 

In 2009, Ut was honored by the SPJ Greater Los Angeles chapter with a lifetime achievement award.  – Rappler.com