THE BLOG
11/12/2018 17:49 GMT | Updated 11/12/2018 17:49 GMT

Time Magazine Honouring Journalists For 2018's Person Of The Year Sends A Stark Message Of Defiance To Donald Trump

The winners are a group of people who have been killed or imprisoned from a profession the US President has spent much of his time calling the ‘enemy of the people’

Time Magazine

It’s as much a slap in the face for Donald Trump as a recognition of the bravery and sacrifice of journalists the world over.

Two years ago, the new US President who defied all the odds to win the White House was named Time magazine’s ‘Person of the Year’.

But the winners of the 2018 title are a group of people from a profession he has spent much of his time since calling the ‘enemy of the people’.

So far, 52 journalists have been killed this year, but the most sinister deaths are those seemingly targeted for telling the truth.

Jamal Khashoggi – the first ‘Person of the Year’ to receive the title posthumously since the award began in 1927 – famously called for a free press in the Middle East in the last piece he wrote for the Washington Post.

At the time of his death he was busy setting up a new movement, ‘Democracy in the Arab World Now’ (DAWN), which would campaign for meaningful reform in countries likes Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

But his murder at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, in a killing which the CIA believes was ordered by the country’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, brutally put an end to all that.

Also winning the Time accolade are the staff of the Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis, Maryland, who on 28 June carried on getting their paper out even though Jarrod Ramos had allegedly sent them three letters that day, including one that reportedly said he was on his way to their office to ‘kill as many people’ as he could.

Five later died in the hail of bullets he allegedly sprayed around the office in an attack, which some claimed was the result of Trump’s demonisation of the media. 

Also recognised by Time are two Reuters journalists who were investigating the killing of 10 Rohingya Muslim villagers during an army crackdown in Myanmar.

Wa Lone, 32, and 28-year-old Kyaw Soe Oo, were accused of being spies and jailed for seven years under the country’s Official Secrets Act. But both claimed police planted the papers on them, with one officer allegedly offering ‘possible negotiations’ if they spiked their massacre story.

In the Philippines, the government of President Rodrigo Duterte has been attacking news organisations which criticise his regime, and in particular its war on drugs which has claimed tens of thousands of lives over the past two years.

Despite overpaying her taxes, Maria Ressa, editor of online news site Rappler, was arrested on tax fraud charges.

Speaking outside court after winning bail, the journalist – another Time ‘Person of the Year’– said: “We need to hold the government to account, and part of the reason I’m here is precisely that.

“I’m not a criminal but I’ve been finger-printed like a criminal.”

Trump’s use of the phrase ‘enemy of the people’ in reference to journalists has often been met by thunderous applause at his rallies.

You may have seen the footage of Republican activists hurling abuse at the ranks of reporters sitting with their laptops to cover the event.

Such language led to 16 pipe-bombs being sent to critics of Trump – including TV networks and political opponents – by a Republican and avowed supporter of the president.

By naming Khashoggi, the Capital Gazette newspaper, Ressa, Wa Lone and Kwaw Soe Oo as its ‘Person of the Year,’ Time magazine is calling out Donald Trump.

Even though the US President had nothing to do with what happened to these journalists, his attack on a free press has necessitated that Time magazine honour what it does, throughout the world.

It’s the fact that, against all the evidence, he bends over backwards to defend and excuse the Saudi leadership for what happened that makes us shout even louder: “No, that is not the truth.”

As Time Editor-in-chief Edward Felsenthal wrote in an essay about the choice: “It has long been the first move in the authoritarian playbook: controlling the flow of information and debate that is freedom’s lifeblood.”

Anthony Harwood is a former foreign editor of the Daily Mail and US Editor of the Daily Mirror