Veteran media personality Maria Ressa, co-founder, chief executive officer and executive editor of online news site Rappler, was awarded the Golden Pen of Freedom while the Women in News Editorial Leadership Awards were given to Barbara Kaija, group editor-in-chief of New Vision Press and Publishing Company Ltd. in Uganda, and Noura al Hourani, lead Arabic editor at Syria Direct, a non-profit journalism organization that operates out of Jordan.
Photo from www.wan-ifra.org
World newspaper group honors Ressa, 2 other women editors
Aurea Calica (The Philippine Star) - June 11, 2018 - 12:00am

ESTORIL, Portugal – Three women journalists from three different countries including the Philippines have been cited by the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) for their contributions to press freedom and to their organizations in advancing journalism practice.

Veteran media personality Maria Ressa, co-founder, chief executive officer and executive editor of online news site Rappler, was awarded the Golden Pen of Freedom while the Women in News Editorial Leadership Awards were given to Barbara Kaija, group editor-in-chief of New Vision Press and Publishing Company Ltd. in Uganda, and Noura al Hourani, lead Arabic editor at Syria Direct, a non-profit journalism organization that operates out of Jordan.

The Golden Pen of Freedom is an annual award that recognizes the outstanding action, in writing or deed, of an individual, group or institution in the cause of press freedom, while the Women in News Editorial Leadership Award cites an exemplary contribution of an editor from Africa, the Middle East and North Africa to her newsroom and, under her helm, the contribution of her newspaper to society.

The Golden Pen of Freedom award, given during the opening ceremony of the 70th World News Media Congress and 25th World Editors Forum on Wednesday, recognized Ressa’s unwavering commitment to the values of a free press as well as her determination to continue exposing stories of vital importance for democracy in the Philippines amid intense pressure and personal attacks from the government and its supporters.

The Women in News Editorial Leadership Award, on the other hand, was given during the gala dinner on Thursday.

In presenting the award to Ressa in front of over 700 publishers, CEOs and editors-in-chief from the global news industry, Dave Callaway, World Editors Forum president and editor and CEO of The Street, said, “We stand in solidarity with Maria Ressa and her news organization as they press on despite the challenges they have to face.”

Callaway called on the Philippine government to “pause before it considers its next move” and “take stock of what its actions mean for the democratic future of the country and its millions of people.”

“A free media is the sign of a strong, confident political system, one that trusts its people and has understood the electoral bargain. Encouraging criticism and participation ensures accountability, something President Duterte should understand,” Callaway said.

“We hope the Golden Pen also deters those who seek to undermine media independence and the profession of journalism by showing the solidarity that the award represents. When all else fails, we should know that we have each other to rely upon if we are to continue making the kind of impact, breaking the sort of stories and shining our light into those dark corners in a way our communities have come to expect,” he added.

In her acceptance speech, Ressa vowed to “hold the line” as she pointed out that “you don’t really know who you are until you’re forced to fight to defend it.”

“Then every battle you win or lose, every compromise you choose to make or to walk away from, all these struggles define the values you live by and, ultimately, who you are. We at Rappler decided that when we look back at this moment a decade from now, we will have done everything we could: we did not duck, we did not hide,” she said.

Rappler is currently facing legal cases related to ownership, taxes and even cyber-libel.

Last January, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) revoked Rappler’s license of incorporation, a decision the company continues to fight as it will lead to the shut down of the news site due to alleged foreign ownership.

The laureates from Africa and the Middle East also had to deal with difficulties in pursuing their profession, including motherhood and other family duties, patriarchal culture and political turmoil, among others.

“This acknowledgment by WAN-IFRA is recognition for all women in the media in Africa.”

“My win is a win for all women in the newsrooms at Vision Group and all women in the media in Uganda. I am humbled to join the few women laureates in newsrooms in Africa and I pray that this will grow into a large army and large voice for the voiceless in our society,” Kaija said.

For her part, Al Hourani said: “Today, we must strive to empower women at all levels and ensure that they are properly represented in leadership roles –politically and professionally, especially in the Middle East. I am incredibly grateful to Syria Direct for providing me with my first opportunity to lead, and I want to thank WAN-IFRA for your support and encouragement for women to be role models.”

WAN-IFRA, a global network of 3,000 news publishing companies and technology entrepreneurs with 80-member publisher associations representing 18,000 publications in 120 countries, works to protect the rights of journalists around the world to operate free media. It also provides professional services to help their businesses prosper in a digital world as well as perform their crucial roles in open societies.

This year’s three-day congress, which concluded Friday, tackled gender issues or the need for balance in hiring men and women in the media but also having more female news sources being quoted, leadership and creative strategies for print, online and social media platforms, new trends, fighting mistrust and misinformation as well as safety and security of journalists around the world.
During the Women in News Summit, men and women leaders from the US, Europe, Middle East, Africa and Asia shared programs and ideas to ensure gender equality in newsrooms.

WORLD ASSOCIATION OF NEWSPAPERS AND NEWS PUBLISHERS
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