I am more than honored at being the recipient of the 2019 Titus Brandsma press freedom award. I am accepting it in behalf of the many journalists across the country who, despite physical attacks, death threats, censorship attempts, bans from coverage, whimsical libel suits, and red-baiting continue the necessary task of seeking the truth and reporting it. Most of all am I accepting it in memory of the 165 journalists and media workers who have been killed in this country since 1986 because of their work, among them the 32 killed in the 2009 Ampatuan massacre, the tenth anniversary of which will be on November 23. They deserve the honor more than I do: press freedom is best defended and enriched by journalists’ practicing it and refusing to be silent or silenced.
But these are dangerous times not only for journalists but also for every truth teller: for human rights defenders; the lawyers of the poor and marginalized; student, labor, farmer and other activists; and those men and women of the cloth who speak and act in support of the fundamental right to life. Today as in Blessed Titus Brandsma’s time, truth telling has become the only antidote to the ignorance that claims for itself the right to kill, and the barbarism that proclaims to all the world that human liberties and lives don’t matter.
Journalists and truth tellers share with scientists and artists the same human responsibility of interpreting and explaining the world. Without understanding the circumstances that define human existence in this country as well as other parts of the planet, no change is possible, and it is in this sense that journalism is more than a craft and a profession. It is a crucial power as well in the realization and advancement of human freedom.
It is for the sake of advancing the human capacity for understanding that every man and woman of goodwill values free expression and press freedom. Let this occasion be an opportunity for all of us and those outside this hall to reiterate our commitment to the defense and enhancement of free expression for all, for the sake of all that’s human.
My thanks to the Order of Carmelites and the Titus Brandsma Media Center for this award. I will treasure it as a testament to the fact that even in this age of alternative facts and disinformation, there are still among us those men and women who truly value the power of truth and knowledge in interpreting, challenging, and changing the world.