'The Guardians' are Time Person of the Year in 2018
Jackie Dunham, CTVNews.ca Staff
Published Tuesday, December 11, 2018 7:51AM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, December 11, 2018 1:12PM EST
Time magazine’s editors have selected "The Guardians and the War on Truth" for the cover of their 2018 Person of the Year edition, recognizing a group of journalists they say are symbolic of a broader fight around the world to hold those in power to account.
The journalists include murdered Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi; Maria Ressa, the arrested editor of a Philippine news website critical of President Rodrigo Duterte; Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, two Reuters journalists imprisoned in Myanmar for nearly a year for investigating the massacre of Rohingya Muslims; and the staff at the Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis, Md. where four journalists and a sales assistant were killed by a gunman in June.
In an essay about the choice, the magazine’s editor-in-chief Edward Felsenthal wrote that all of the journalists included in the selection had “paid a terrible price to seize the challenge of this moment.” He also said their struggle is symbolic.
“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,” Felsenthal wrote.
Simon Shuster, the magazine’s Europe correspondent who contributed to the story, seconded that opinion in an interview with CTV’s Your Morning from Berlin on Tuesday morning.
“We’ve included those four [journalists], but it’s important to remember that they represent many of our colleagues,” he said. “Fifty-two journalists have been murdered in 2018 alone so far. This is a bigger story than just the four that are represented on the covers.”
The inclusion of Khashoggi, who was killed at the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul, Turkey in early October, marks the first time the magazine has named someone who is deceased as its Person of the Year.
The Saudi Arabian journalist was a vocal critic of the kingdom and frequently spoke out in favour of freedom of expression. He was living in the U.S. before his death.
“The impact that he had on world events was so amplified by his death,” Shuster told CTV News Channel on Tuesday. “In his death he really showed us and cast a light on the regime that he fought against, that he criticized, and that killed him. Through that we saw the broader picture of the state of journalists in the world.”
Ressa is another high-profile journalist included in the list. She co-founded the notorious Rappler news site, which is known for reporting on Duterte’s extrajudicial death squads and propaganda, according to the magazine. She was recently arrested and charged with tax fraud – an accusation that Time magazine says is widely considered to be a crackdown on Rappler’s coverage. She faces up to 10 years in prison if she’s convicted.
In Felsenthal’s essay, he writes that the arrest of Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo one year ago in Myanmar was a classic example of an authoritarian regime clamping down on dissent.
“It has long been the first move in the authoritarian playbook: controlling the flow of information and debate that is freedom’s lifeblood,” he wrote.
As for the shooting at the Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis earlier this year, Time magazine noted the massacre made the U.S. the fourth-deadliest country in the world to be a journalist.
“But while the loss was immense and intensely personal, that day the staff at one of the nation’s oldest news outlets did what it has done since before the American Revolution — they put the paper out,” Felsenthal wrote.
As for the runner-ups, U.S. President Donald Trump ranked second, while U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller was the magazine’s third pick.
The choice was announced on a U.S. TV morning show Tuesday, revealing four different magazine cover designs featuring the four journalists and the Capital Gazette newspaper staff. In the cover dedicated to Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe, the jailed journalists’ wives are shown holding up photos of their husbands.
In 2017, Time magazine's editors selected "The Silence Breakers” as their Person of the Year to recognize the individuals whose testimonials about sexual harassment and assault sparked an international movement.
The year before, the just-elected U.S. President Donald Trump was Time magazine's Person of the Year. He also made the shortlist in 2017 and 2018. In its explanation for the president’s second-place finish, the magazine notes that Trump’s lasting legacy may be more related to the opposition he inspired as opposed to any actual policy achievements.
“For all Trump’s influence there is a crowning irony: his ultimate impact may be determined as much by the resistance he engenders as by the goals he pursues,” the magazine said.
Shuster said “The Guardians” ultimately prevailed over Trump, Mueller, and all the other contenders because their stories affected the most people.
“I think some of the other candidates were fascinating and extremely impactful throughout the year… but I think what really made the editors of Time focus on “The Guardians and the War on Truth” is because it’s such a global story that’s been resonant throughout the year,” he said.
Although Shuster admitted he found it “a bit awkward” as a journalist to contribute to a story about journalists, he said it was necessary because the spotlight had been thrust upon the profession in the past year whether they liked it or not.
“It is uncomfortable for us to be in the centre of the frame, but that’s not our choice. It’s these authoritarian leaders that we report on, it’s these corrupt regimes that we report on, they’re the ones who have pointed at us and said ‘You’re the fake news. You’re the enemy of the people.’”