Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has congratulated veteran Filipino journalist Inday Espina-Varona for bagging the prestigious “Prize for Independence” conferred to her by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) at the recent Press Freedom Awards.
De Lima, a known human rights defender here and abroad, lauded Varona for boldly raising the alarm against misogyny and violence encouraged by no less than Mr. Duterte, through her journalistic prowess.
“Under the rule of Mr. Duterte where misogynistic remarks and foul jokes are encouraged and where gender-related harassment continues to run rampant, it’s not a walk in the park to launch an online women’s rights campaign in response to President’s degrading comments on women just like Inday Varona did,” she said.
“I commend Ms. Varona for courageously reporting the human rights violations of the Duterte administration despite the risk of being attacked and cyber-bullied by the President’s troll army who love to spread disinformation online,” she added.
Varona, who founded a social media women’s rights campaign in response to Mr. Duterte’s comments on women, was recognized for her bravery in holding governments to account in the face of persistent threats.
RSF, which is awarded “to journalists who resist financial, political, economic or religious pressure,” also acknowledged Varona’s fearless reports on sensitive issues like child prostitution, violence against women, LGBT, and the conflict in Mindanao.
The veteran Filipino journalist was also recognized together with Indian journalist Swati Chaturvedi at the recently-concluded RSF annual awards staged in London, United Kingdom.
Speaking before the media, Varona was quoted as saying that “independence is very important for citizen journalism” that is why she “teaches young people to be critical minded and I hope this award will inspire them.”
The Senator from Bicol said Varona should serve as an inspiration to fellow media practitioners to continue serving as messengers of truth without succumbing to pressure and intimidation by the state and incompetent, abusive officials.
“We are all aware that attacks against journalists and other media practitioners have worsened under the administration of President Duterte who cannot accept legitimate criticisms from some quarters. But as messengers of truth, it should not prevent you from valuing truth and freedom while presenting information with accuracy and fairness,” she said.
Last January 2017, De Lima delivered a fiery privilege speech to denounce the unabated proliferation of misinformation in the Internet and other social networking sites, where she likened fake news to a “virus” that could “bring about a zombie apocalypse.”