Every day, journalists around the world risk their credibility, careers, freedom and even their lives in pursuit of the truth. Through the challenges, these journalists remain on the frontlines undeterred by the unsafe environments and powerful people who seek to silence them.
Each year, to recognize their sacrifices and contributions — and to spotlight their work — the International Center for Journalists gives two influential journalists the Knight International Media Award at its annual Awards Dinner in Washington, D.C. each November. The award is supported by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
This year’s winners are Maria Ressa, a crusading editor and digital trailblazer in the Philippines, and Joseph Poliszuk, a media innovator and investigative reporter from Venezuela. Learn more about their work here:
Maria Ressa’s popular news site has held a spotlight on the policies of President Rodrigo Duterte and his government’s war on drugs.
As founder and executive editor of Rappler, Ressa has been at the forefront of both investigative journalism and media innovation. Rappler was among the first in the country to use social media and crowdsourcing for news distribution. Ressa also sounded an early alarm about the use of trolls and social media bots to distort the truth and disseminate disinformation.
As a news platform, Rappler has persistently shed light on Duterte’s harsh policies. It reported that under Duterte, nearly 8,000 Filipinos have been victims of extrajudicial killings at the hands of security forces. In response to the reports, Duterte and his government have targeted Rappler, making it a major focus of its attack on press freedom. Ressa is now fighting the government’s move to revoke Rappler’s license and thus silence it on grounds that the site is owned by foreigners, a charge Ressa calls ridiculous. The case has reached the country’s Supreme Court.
A journalist for nearly three decades, Ressa spent most of her career at CNN’s Manila and Jakarta bureaus. She then moved to ABS-CBN before launching Rappler in 2012.
A ground-breaking digital news service, Rappler is also known for innovative public service journalism. In 2013, when more than 6,000 Filipinos perished in a typhoon, Rappler set up internet access points for survivors to get vital news and information.
Ressa has also taught media and politics courses at universities, and is the author of two books: Seeds of Terror: An Eyewitness Account of al-Qaeda’s Newest Center of Operations in Southeast, which was published in 2003, and From Bin Laden to Facebook. In November 2017 she received the National Democratic Institute’s 2017 Democracy Award.
Joseph Poliszuk and his team expose high-level corruption in his native Venezuela as the country faces economic collapse and political chaos.
As editor-in-chief and co-founder of Armando.info, he leads a team of reporters who have produced major investigations revealing financial misdeeds and corruption in Venezuela, which has been ranked one of the 10 most corrupt countries in the world by Transparency International.
In one case in late 2017, the journalists revealed a scheme by a politically connected businessman to inflate the price of food meant for poor citizens. Poliszuk and three colleagues fled the country after the businessman, who is closely tied to President Nicolas Maduro’s political party, filed a lawsuit that could result in six years in prison for each of them. The journalists, who have also exposed ties between Maduro and the judiciary, said they feared they would not get a fair trial. They plan to return to Venezuela after their investigation is complete.
Known for thorough reporting supported by data, Poliszuk has coordinated teams of journalists on transnational investigations, such as the Panama Papers project, the groundbreaking project that revealed the hidden wealth of global elites. The reporting led to the arrests of at least a half dozen influential Venezuelans, including top aides to the late President Hugo Chavez.
Before launching Armando.info, Poliszuk spent a decade as an investigative reporter for El Universal, covering topics from drug trafficking to illegal mining to human rights abuses. Over the years, he has been detained by security forces, threatened and harassed, most recently with attacks from an anonymous Twitter account.
Images courtesy of Maria Ressa and Joseph Poliszuk.