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Journalists lead this year's winners of 'Asia's Nobel Prize'

Philippine musician and Thai rights activist also receive Ramon Magsaysay Award

 Joe Torres, Manila

Joe Torres, Manila

Published: August 02, 2019 08:27 AM GMT

Updated: August 02, 2019 08:31 AM GMT

Journalists lead this year's winners of 'Asia's Nobel Prize'

The winners of this year's Ramon Magsaysay Award. Bottom row from left are Ravish Kumar of India, Raymundo Pujante Cayabyab of the Philippines and Kim Jong-ki of South Korea. (Photo supplied)

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, which has been 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.

"They have shown moral courage and impassioned insistence on making the societies that they serve better, kinder and more equitable for everyone, especially for the marginalized," said Carmencita Abella, president of the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation.

"Indeed, they offer us inspiring examples of vision, leadership, persistence, and success," she added.

Journalists Ko Swe Win, editor of Myanmar Now, and Ravish Kumar, executive director of India's New Delhi Television Network were among those to be honored this year.

Swe Win is being recognized for "his undaunted commitment to practicing independent, ethical, and socially engaged journalism in Myanmar," said the awards body.

The journalist is known for his "incorruptible sense of justice and unflinching pursuit of the truth in crucial but under-reported issues."

Swe Win has been facing defamation charges since 2017 for criticizing ultranationalist Buddhist monk Ashin Wirathu, who has called the stateless Rohingya Muslim minority illegal immigrants.

India's Kumar, meanwhile, was recognized for "his unfaltering commitment to a professional, ethical journalism of the highest standards."

The award-giving body lauded Kumar's "moral courage in standing up for truth, integrity, and independence."
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His reporting has given "full and respectful voice to the voiceless," and fulfills journalism's "noblest aims to advance democracy," it said.

Kumar's NDTV program, Prime Time, discusses under-reported problems in Indian society, such as the lives of manual scavengers and rickshaw-pullers, among others.

A Filipino musician, composer, and conductor is also being recognized for his compositions and performances "that have defined and inspired Filipino popular music across generations."

Raymundo Pujante Cayabyab, popularly known as Ryan Cayabyan showed that "music can indeed instill pride and joy, and unify people across the many barriers that divide them," the award judges said.

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 activist Angkhana Neelapaijit of Thailand was given the award this year for her "unwavering courage in seeking justice" for victims of violence and conflict in southern Thailand.

She was recognized for her "systematic, unflagging work to reform a flawed and unfair legal system."

Angkhana 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.

Kim's 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 award-giving body said it recognized Kim for "his quiet courage in transforming private grief into a mission to protect Korea’s youth from the scourge of bullying and violence."

"His unstinting dedication to the goal of instilling among the young the values of self-esteem, tolerance, and mutual respect" earned him the award.

The prize ceremony will be held at the Cultural Center of the Philippines in Manila on Sept. 9.

The Ramon Magsaysay Award is an annual award established in 1957 to perpetuate former Philippine president Ramon Magsaysay's example of integrity in governance, courageous service to the people, and pragmatic idealism within a democratic society.

The award 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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