Journalist Ravish Kumar among five chosen for 2019 Ramon Magsaysay Award

Ravish Kumar
Ravish Kumar
Well-known Indian journalist Ravish Kumar of NDTV is among the five individuals chosen for the prestigious 2019 Ramon Magsaysay Award, widely regarded as Asia's highest honour, an announcement in Manila said today.
Ravish Kumar has been recognized for “his unfaltering commitment to a professional, ethical journalism of the highest standards; his moral courage in standing up for truth, integrity, and independence; and his principled belief that it is in giving full and respectful voice to the voiceless, in speaking truth bravely yet soberly to power, that journalism fulfills its noblest aims to advance democracy.”
The Board of Trustees of the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation (RMAF) in Manila said the other awardees this year are King Jong-ki from South Korea; Ko Swe Win from Myanmar;  Angkhana Neelapaijit from Thailand; and  Raymundo Pujante Cayabyab from the Philippines.  
The citation for Ravish Kumar said India, the world's largest democracy, had seen the space for an independent and responsible Indian press shrink over the past years.  
"The factors behind this  are many: a changing media landscape because of new information technologies, the increased marketization of news and opinions, growing government control, and, most worrisome, the rise of popular authoritarianism and religious, ethnic, and nationalist fundamentalisms with their consequent divisiveness, intolerance, and susceptibilities to violence.
"An important voice against these threats is television journalist Ravish Kumar.  Raised in Jitwarpur village in Hindi-speaking Bihar, northeast India, Ravish pursued his early interest in history and public affairs through postgraduate studies in history from Delhi University. In 1996, he joined New Delhi Television Network (NDTV), one of India’s leading TV networks and worked his way up from being a field reporter. After NDTV launched its 24-hour Hindi-language news channel — NDTV India — targeting the country’s 422 million native speakers of Hindi, he was given his own daily show, Prime Time. Today, as NDTV India’s senior executive editor, Ravish is one of India’s most influential TV journalists.
"His more important distinction, however, comes from the kind of journalism he represents.  In a media environment threatened by an interventionist state, toxic with jingoist partisans, trolls and purveyors of 'fake news', and where the competition for market ratings has put the premium on 'media personalities', 'tabloidization', and audience-pandering sensationalism, Ravish has been most vocal on insisting that the professional values of sober, balanced, fact-based reporting be upheld in practice.  His Prime Time program on NDTV India takes up current social issues; does serious background research; and presents issues in well-rounded discussions that can run up to twenty or more episodes.  The program deals with real-life, under-reported problems of ordinary people — from the lives of manual scavengers and rickshaw-pullers to the plight of government employees and displaced farmers, to underfunded state schools and the inefficient railway system.  Ravish interacts easily with the poor, travels extensively, and uses social media to stay in touch with his audience, generating from them the stories for his program.  Striving for a people-based journalism, he calls his newsroom 'the people’s newsroom'.
"Ravish is not above engaging in some theatrics himself  if he feels it effective, as in an innovative show he did in 2016 to dramatize how debased the discourse had become on TV news programs.  The show opens with Ravish coming on screen to talk to the viewers about how TV news programs had descended into a 'dark world' of angry, strident voices.  The screen then goes dark and, for the next hour, there is nothing but a cacophonous audio of sound bites from actual TV programs, venomous threats, hysterical rants, the sounds of a mob baying for the blood of enemies. For Ravish, it is always about the message, dispassionately delivered.
"As an anchor, Ravish is sober, incisive, and well-informed.  He does not dominate his guests but affords them the chance to express themselves.  He does not balk, however, at calling the highest officials to account or criticizing media and the state of public discourse in the country; for this reason, he has been harassed and threatened by rabid partisans of one kind or another. Through all the perils and aggravations, Ravish has remained consistent in his effort to preserve and widen the space for a critical, socially responsible media.  Keeping faith with a journalism that puts service to the people at its center, Ravish sums up what he believes a journalist is in the most basic terms: 'If you have become the voice of the people, you are a journalist.'"
Among the other awardees this year, Kim Jong-ki has been recognized for "“his quiet courage in transforming private grief into a mission to protect Korea’s youth from the scourge of bullying and violence, his unstinting dedication to the goal of instilling among the young the values of self-esteem, tolerance, and mutual respect, and his effectively mobilizing all sectors of the country in a nationwide drive that has transformed both policy and behaviors towards building a gentler, non-violent society.”
 Ko Swe Win, who has been chosen for the Emergent Leadership award, is being recognized for “his undaunted commitment to practice independent, ethical, and socially engaged journalism in Myanmar; his incorruptible sense of justice and unflinching pursuit of the truth in crucial but under-reported issues; and his resolute insistence that it is in the quality and force of media’s truth-telling that we can convincingly protect human rights in the world.”
Angkhana Neelapaijit has been chosen for “her unwavering courage in seeking justice for her husband and many other victims of violence and conflict in southern Thailand; her systematic, unflagging work to reform a flawed and unfair legal system, and the shining proof she is that the humblest ordinary person can achieve national impact in deterring human rights abuses.”
Raymundo Pujante Cayabyab, from the Philippines has been given the award “his compositions and performances that have defined and inspired  Filipino popular music across generations; his indomitable, undeterred confidence to selflessly seek, mentor,  and promote young Filipino musical genius for the global stage; and his showing us all that music can indeed instill pride and joy, and unify people across the many barriers that divide them.”
Established in 1957, the Ramon Magsaysay Award celebrates the memory and leadership example of the third Philippine president after whom the award is named, and is given every year to individuals or organizations in Asia who manifest the same selfless service and transformative influence that ruled the life of the late Filipino leader.
“The Magsaysay awardees of 2019,” says RMAF President Carmencita Abella, “all reflect courage undaunted, in their commitment to build solutions to vital and complex issues in their societies.  Theirs is a moral courage that is unfazed d by repressive systems, or social divisions, or institutional resistance, or deep cultural prejudice, or even by the burdens of building the capacities of others.  Embracing the challenges of their respective advocacies, these leaders take bold, creative, and empowering actions that engage others to do likewise.  Perhaps the most powerful impact of their leadership can be seen in the heightened moral courage they have inspired among  the many whose lives they have touched.”
She adds, “Their approaches are all deeply anchored on a respect for human dignity, and a faith in the power of collective endeavor.   We draw much hope from the 2019 Magsaysay awardees, and have much to celebrate about their accomplishments and greatness of spirit.”
The five 2019 Magsaysay awardees join the community of 330 other Magsaysay laureates who have received Asia’s highest honor and premier prize to date.  This year’s Magsaysay Award winners will each receive a certificate, a medallion bearing the likeness of the late President, and a cash prize. They will be formally conferred the Magsaysay Award during formal Presentation Ceremonies to be held on September 9 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines in Manila.

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