Message from Keith
Independent media and fact-based journalism worldwide got a much needed boost this month with the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to two intrepid, inspiring journalists, Dmitry Muratov, co-founder and chief editor of the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta in Russia, and Maria Ressa, co-founder and CEO of Rappler in the Philippines.
The Nobel Committee said it was making the award — only the second time in history to a journalist — in recognition of “their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace”.
This year’s two awardees, the committee said, “are representatives of all journalists who stand up for this ideal in a world in which democracy and freedom of the press face increasingly adverse conditions”.
This welcome award comes at a time when journalists and journalism are under attack around the world — from governments imposing so-called “fake news laws” to journalists being subjected to jailing, arbitrary detention and online abuse. The situation here in Asia has seemed particularly dire, with the forced closure of the city’s most popular newspaper, Apple Daily, and the arrest of its top editors, relentless verbal and written attacks against the Hong Kong Journalists Association and threats by the local security officials to pursue their own “fake news law”.
The Nobel Committee put it best; free and fact-based journalism is the citizenry’s only armour against abuse of power, propaganda and lies. Other Nobel Peace Prizes have generated controversy and debate. This time, they got it just right. Congratulations to Dmitry and Maria and to all the brave journalists still struggling against authoritarianism and repression. The truth will ultimately win.
Meanwhile, be sure to check out the Judith Neilson Institute’s just-released “News In Asia” report, a comprehensive look at everything from how and where Asian consumers get their news to the state of free expression, fact-checking initiatives and funding sources. As JNI’s executive director Mark Ryan put it, the “News In Asia” report should become an “essential reference tool for anyone interested in journalism and the news media in Asia.”
And — full disclosure — I’m thrilled that HKU Journalism experts had a hand in drafting several of the chapters.
At a time when many have been writing journalism’s obituary, it’s been heartening to see the Judith Neilson Institute, based in Sydney, putting resources into projects to support evidence-based journalism. One of the biggest challenges for journalism is financial, as news-sharing social media sites have devastated old media business models. Since its founding just three years ago JNI has emerged as a critical player, particularly in Asia, underpinning independent storytelling and providing a platform where ideas about journalism’s future can be debated and discussed.
Finally, this is the time of year when we start to launch our recruitment drive for the 2022 Masters of Journalism class. Applications are open now. If the past few years are any indication, I don’t expect to see any dampening of enthusiasm among people eager to learn how to become better storytellers across all platforms, particularly in the digital, data visualisation and video journalism spheres.
At a time when journalism is facing myriad threats and challenges, it’s heartening to see such widespread recognition of the importance of the media and free expression for open, secure and democratic societies.
The global pandemic has underscored the importance of truth-telling and facts in the face of disinformation and dangerous pseudoscience. The latest global investigative collaboration, the Pandora Papers, exposing the use of hidden offshore shell companies by the world’s wealthy elite, has shown the power of the media to shed light into the dark corners that the powerful want kept hidden.
And now the Nobel Peace Prize has gone to two crusading journalists who launched independent media outlets to challenge authoritarian rulers and speak truth to power.
There has never been a better time to be a journalist. And never a better time to come learn the skills of the trade here at HKU Journalism.
Keith B. Richburg
Director, Journalism and Media Studies Centre