Filipina journalist, #BabaeAko founder wins RSF Prize for Independence

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 9) — Filipino journalist Inday Espina Varona bagged the prestigious Reporters Without Borders (RSF) Prize for Independence.

The prize, which is part of RSF's 2018 Press Freedom Awards, is given to journalists, media, and NGOs resisting financial, political, economic, or religious pressure — and credits "the values and rules that enable them to resist."

"A veteran journalist, [Inday Varona] has done a lot of reporting on issues that are sensitive in the Philippines, such as child prostitution, violence against women, LGBT issues and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front on the island of Mindanao," RSF wrote in a tweet.


Varona also heads the social media campaign #BabaeAko, which TIME Magazine named one of the 25 Most Influential People on the Internet in 2018. The movement aims to forward the voices of women, and it has called out President Rodrigo Duterte for his sexist remarks and rape jokes.

The veteran journalist, who is now a contributing editor to the broadcast network ABS-CBN, dedicated her win to other Filipino mediamen.

"I share this with embattled Philippine colleagues: the 185 killed since the 1986 restoration of a fragile, perpetually threatened democracy, 12 of them in the first two years of President Rodrigo Duterte's rule," Varona said in her speech, which she shared on Facebook.

Just last year, RSF found that the Philippines was the deadliest country for journalists in Asia. One of the most notorious incidents showcasing the culture of impunity is the 2009 Maguindanao massacre, which took the lives of 58 individuals — at least 30 of whom worked in the media.

Under President Rodrigo Duterte's administration, the media has also faced the rampant spread of disinformation online and trolling. Duterte has slammed some outlets as "fake news," threatened to close ABS-CBN, and even revoked the license of online news site Rappler.

Varona also called out the practice of journalists being listed as witnesses to cases filed by cops in exchange for access to police operations, and urged people to support the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines' initiative to repeal the law that enabled the set-up.

She also warned against efforts to tag all critics of the government as terrorists.

"If I am independent, it is because there are colleagues and fellow citizens who fight for rights and freedoms, who refuse to be silent in the face of thousands of murders and other injustices, who fight on despite threats, arrests and torture, whose words and deeds speak from beyond the grave," said Varona. "Filipino journalists are brave because we come after the many who showed courage over hundreds of years. And we are brave because our people are brave."

The 2018 Press Freedom Awards were held in November 8 in London. Other awardees are Indian journalist Swati Chaturvedi for the Prize for Courage, Maltese journalist Matthew Caruana Galizia for the Prize for Impact, and British journalist Carole Cadwalladr for the newly created 'L'Esprit de RSF' Prize.

CNN Philippines' multi-platform writer Regine Cabato contributed to this report.