TIME’s Person of the Year the right, only choice


Kernel Opinions Sig

TIME magazine named Jamal Khashoggi and “The Guardians” as its Person of The Year this week, sparking some outrage on social media and making a lot of journalists in the world pretty thrilled. I applaud their decision because it further reiterates the importance of journalism around the globe. 

To have “journalists fighting ‘war on truth’” receive this distinguished honor, especially in a time when we feel the need to constantly remind others of our democratic duty, was especially inspiring to me as I look forward to a career in journalism.

The journalists the famed magazine chose included Jamal Khashoggi, who was murdered this year; the staff of the Capital Gazette, five of which were killed; Maria Ressa and two Reuters reporters, U Wa Lone and U Kyaw Soe Oo.

What these journalists all have in common is that they suffered horrifically to provide the public with independent journalism. It’s impossible to follow the news lately and not know about Khashoggi. The five killed journalists from the Capital Gazette staff had many people talking and many journalists on edge for weeks. These people gave everything— their lives— for the sake of freedom.

The other journalists named, Maria Ressa and U Wa Lone and U Kyaw Soe Oo, have gotten more backlash because of their prison sentences abroad.

U Wa Lone and U Kyaw Soe Oo reported on a massacre in which 10 Muslim men were killed. The act was apparently covered by the Myanmar’s Official Secrets Act and these two were subjected to a drawn-out court case and have now, as of Dec. 12, been in prison for one year.  

Maria Ressa, who started up Rappler, is facing tax fraud charges in the Philippines and has denied them all. She turned herself in to the government to publicly refute them but has asserted that the charges are a government attack to keep her from reporting the truth.

I saw some social media comments from people claiming that no one facing tax fraud charges should be a TIME Person of the Year.

To this I would remind people that Ressa has won the 2018 Knight International Journalism award and the Press Freedom Award by the Committee to Protect Journalists, both prestigious honors that speak to her dedication to this calling.

Once, a character in a TV show said something like, “When a government is corrupt, the only place for a righteous man is behind bars.” As scary as that sounds, I think we are there now, at least as far as journalism is concerned. Yes, some of the TIME’s honorees are in prison. But they’re there doing what journalists do: taking a stand for something bigger than them.

The TIME’s Person of the Year indeed couldn’t have been anyone other than these brave men and women who have sacrificed so much in the fight for freedom and knowledge.