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Journalists among Ramon Magsaysay Awards recipients

MANILA (UCAN): A musician, two journalists, a human rights worker, and a father who lost his son to suicide are this year’s winners of the Ramon Magsaysay Award—dubbed Asia’s Nobel Prize. The winners were chosen from among candidates known to advance causes aimed at improving lives and transforming societies in Asia. 
 
Journalists Ko Swe Win, editor of Myanmar Now, and Ravish Kumar, executive director of India’s New Delhi Television Network (NDTV) were among those to be honoured this year.
Swe Win is being recognised for “his undaunted commitment to practicing independent, ethical, and socially engaged journalism in Myanmar” and for his “incorruptible sense of justice and unflinching pursuit of the truth in crucial but under-reported issues,” the awards body said.
 
Swe Win has been facing defamation charges since 2017 for criticising ultranationalist Buddhist monk, Ashin Wirathu, who has called the stateless Rohingya Muslim minority illegal immigrants.
 
Kumar, meanwhile, was recognised for “his unfaltering commitment to a professional, ethical journalism of the highest standards.” He was lauded for “moral courage in standing up for truth, integrity, and independence.”
 
Kumar’s reporting has given “full and respectful voice to the voiceless,” and fulfills journalism’s “noblest aims to advance democracy,” the awards body said, noting that his NDTV programme, Prime Time, discusses under-reported problems in Indian society, such as the lives of manual scavengers and rickshaw-pullers, among others.
 
Raymundo (Ryan) Pujante Cayabyab, the famed Filipino musician, composer and conductor, is also being recognized for his compositions and performances “that have defined and inspired Filipino popular music across generations.” The awards judges said that Cayabyab showed that “music can indeed instill pride and joy, and unify people across the many barriers that divide them.”
 
The 65-year-old Cayabyab started writing music in the 1970s and has had a stellar music career since then. In 2018, he was proclaimed a National Artist of the Philippines for his contribution to Filipino music.
 
Human rights advocate, Angkhana Neelapaijit of Thailand, was recognised for her “unwavering courage in seeking justice” for victims of violence and conflict in southern Thailand and for her “systematic, unflagging work to reform a flawed and unfair legal system.”
 
She is described as “the shining proof … that the humblest ordinary person can achieve national impact in deterring human rights abuses.”
 
In 2006, Angkhana founded the Justice for Peace Foundation, a network of human rights and peace advocates that documents the human rights situation in southern Thailand. 
 
The foundation also helps provide legal assistance to victims of human rights violations and trains women on human rights and the peace process.
 
Meanwhile, Kim Jong-ki of South Korea, established the Foundation for Preventing Youth Violence after his own son committed suicide. The foundation aims to address school violence “as a systemic social problem affecting students, families, school, and the community.”
 
For years, the foundation lobbied for government policy that would address the problem, until in 2004, a law on Prevention and Handling of School Violence was finally passed in South Korea.
 
The Magsaysay Awards said it recognised Kim for “his quiet courage in transforming private grief into a mission to protect Korea’s youth from the scourge of bullying and violence.”
 
It said, “His unstinting dedication to the goal of instilling among the young the values of self-esteem, tolerance, and mutual respect” earned him the award.
 
President of the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation, Carmencita Abella, said that this year’s award reicpients “ have shown moral courage and impassioned insistence on making the societies that they serve better, kinder and more equitable for everyone, especially for the marginalised,” adding that “indeed, they offer us inspiring examples of vision, leadership, persistence, and success.”
 
The awards ceremony will be held at the Cultural Centre of the Philippines in Manila on September 9.
 
The annual Ramon Magsaysay Award was established in 1957 to perpetuate the example set by former Philippine president, Ramon Magsaysay, of integrity in governance, courageous service to the people, and pragmatic idealism within a democratic society. It is given to persons who address issues of human development in Asia “with courage and creativity, and in doing so have made contributions that have transformed their societies for the better.”

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