By Bethany Peterson
In wake of increasing anti-press rhetoric and worldwide persecution of journalists, Time magazine has recognized “The Guardians,” a group of four journalists and one newspaper staff member, as their 2018 Person of the Year. Their cover story “The Guardians and the war on truth” details the stories of each “Guardian” as well as the perilous situations of journalists living and working in places that don’t support freedom of the press.
The first Guardian is Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post contributing columnist who was murdered earlier this year. Khashoggi visited the Saudi Arabia consulate in Turkey to obtain documents for a marriage license on Oct. 2 but never left the building. After an investigation, the consulate admitted that he had been killed inside.
Khashoggi frequently criticized the Saudi regime in his writing and fled the country in September 2017 to live in Turkey. After a CIA investigation, U.S. intelligence concluded that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the killing, which led to an international outcry. The Saudi government denies this claim and it has been disputed by U.S. President Donald Trump.
Khashoggi is the first person to be posthumously honored as Time’s person of the year since the tradition began in 1927.
Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo are two Reuters reporters who are currently jailed in Myanmar due to their reporting of the displacement of the Rohingya people from Myanmar to Bangladesh. Time named them as Guardians and featured a photo of their wives holding up their husbands’ pictures. The two journalists were later sentenced to seven years in jail for violating a law regarding state secrets. Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo claim they were set up by the police and are being jailed for pursuing truth as journalists.
On Wednesday, Dec. 12, the anniversary of their arrest was recognized with over 100 Myanmar activists who rallied in the streets for their release and held up the Time cover they were featured on. Protesters wore shirts that read “Journalism is not a crime,” according to Reuters.
Filipina journalist Maria Ressa is also honored as a Guardian. Formerly CNN’s lead investigative reporter for Southeast Asia, she is now the president and co-founder of Rappler.com, an online news publication based in the Philippines that has criticized the drug war and Filipino president Rodrigo Duterte’s policies. Human Rights Watch reported that about 12,000 people have been killed during this drug war.
Ressa was charged with tax evasion in November that could lead to 10 years in prison — a charge that has been attributed to Duterte’s desire to crack down on press freedom.
The last figure honored as a Guardian was the staff of the Capital Gazette, a newspaper in Maryland. In June, a gunman opened fire in their newsroom, killing five staff members and injuring two others.
After the shooting, reporter Chase Cook tweeted “I can tell you this, we are putting out a damn paper tomorrow.” The next morning, the Capital staff published a 40-page edition of the paper with a headline article called “5 shot dead at The Capital.”
Time Editor-in-Chief Edward Felsenthal described his reason for this year’s person of the year in his article “The Choice.” “In its highest forms, influence — the measure that has for nine decades been the focus of TIME’s Person of the Year — derives from courage … This year we are recognizing four journalists and one news organization who have paid a terrible price to seize the challenge of this moment … They are representative of a broader fight by countless others around the world — as of Dec. 10, at least 52 journalists have been murdered in 2018 — who risk all to tell the story of our time.”