MANILA, Philippines – The International Press Institute (IPI), a global network of editors, journalists, and media executives, named Rappler as the 2018 recipient of its annual Free Media Pioneer award.
In its announcement on Wednesday, May 23, IPI said the award was given to Rappler in recognition of the Philippine news site’s “innovative approach to journalism and audience engagement as well as its determination to hold authorities accountable despite aggressive attacks on its operations.”
IPI has been giving the Free Media Pioneer award since 1996 “to recognize news or media organizations that have made innovations that have promoted news access or quality, or benefitted journalists and the media community, thereby ensuring freer and more independent media in their country or region.”
IPI is an association of media professionals representing leading digital, print, and broadcast news outlets in more than 120 countries. In its website, it said: “Together, we promote the conditions that allow journalism to fulfill its public function, the most important of which is the media’s ability to operate free from interference and without fear of retaliation.
“Our mission is to defend media freedom and the free flow of news wherever they are threatened.”
Since 2014, the Free Media Pioneer award has been given in partnership with International Media Support (IMS), based in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Press freedom hero
IPI and IMS also announced Angolan journalist Rafael Marques as IPI’s 70th World Press Freedom Hero.
Both Rappler and Marques will be honored during a special ceremony on June 22 in Abuja, Nigeria during IPI’s annual World Congress and General Assembly.
IMS Executive Director Jesper Højberg said, “Rappler deserves to receive the Free Media Pioneer award…Despite escalating threat levels and impending lawsuits, Rappler’s journalists have continued to do what they do best: produce and distribute good quality journalism. Rappler is a leading light in a region where the space for freedom of expression is shrinking. With this award we recognize its tremendous courage and show our support for its important work.”
For her part, IPI Executive Director Barbara Trionfi said: “We are honored to give this year’s Free Media Pioneer award to Rappler, whose commitment to critical reporting and embrace of bold new techniques of engaging with audiences has transformed it over an incredibly short period of time into a journalistic heavyweight in the Philippines.”
She added: “We stand in solidarity with Rappler in the face of attempts to silence its brave and important news operations.”
Rappler CEO and Executive Editor Maria Ressa welcomed the Free Media Pioneer award because it underscored Rappler’s commitment to its mission.
In a statement, Ressa said: “Journalism is under attack on many fronts: from authoritarian leaders using cheap armies on social media to control the public space to technology companies which have largely abdicated responsibility as the new gatekeepers.”
“It’s hard to tell fact from fiction. These are new realities. This recognition of the work we do bolsters our courage and reinforces our hope – that despite the challenges we face, the exponential online attacks and harassment cases, there is no better time to be a journalist. Our mission has never been clearer. Democracy is under threat, but we will hold the line.”
Last year, the 2017 Free Media Pioneer award was given to the Afghan Journalists Safety Committee, which works courageously to prevent, combat, and monitor attacks on journalists in one of the world’s most dangerous media environments.
IPI noted that Rappler has “grown into one of the Philippines’ most popular and effective investigative journalism outlets, providing critical coverage of the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, who has presided over a deadly war against drug users.
“That commitment to watchdog journalism has made it a target, ranging from repeated, aggressive verbal attacks by the President and his supporters to, most recently, a seemingly politically driven decision by the Philippine Securities and Exchange Commission to revoke Rappler’s operating license. The site continues to operate pending appeal,” said IPI. – Rappler.com