magsaysay awards

Ramon Magsaysay awardee Ravish Kumar from India speaks during a press conference with the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines in Manila on Sept. 6. (George Calvelo/AFP/Getty Images)

MANILA, Philippines — Five people were honored Sept. 9 as this year’s winners of the Ramon Magsaysay Awards, regarded as Asia’s version of the Nobel Prize, including one of India’s most influential TV journalists, NDTV's Ravish Kumar.

Kumar and journalist Ko Swe Win from Myanmar — who also won a Magsaysay — confronted threats and stood up for truth, integrity and independence to be able to practice journalism of the highest standard in their countries, the foundation said.

Kumar has advocated for sober, balanced and fact-based reporting “in a media environment threatened by an interventionist state, toxic with jingoist partisans, trolls and purveyors of fake news,” the foundation said.

“While I am happy for myself today, I am also filled with sadness looking at the state of the profession I represent,” Kumar said. “Indian media is in a state of crisis and this crisis is not accidental or random but systemic and structural.”

Ko Swe Win was a student who was detained in 1998 for seven years for helping fight Myanmar’s former ruling junta before he became a journalist. Since 2016, he has been the editor-in-chief of Myanmar Now, an independent news outfit that “has built a strong reputation for well-researched, in-depth articles on critically selected, under-reported human rights and social justice issues,” the awards foundation said.

The others who received the prize at a Manila ceremony were South Korea’s Kim Jong-ki, a successful business executive who became an anti-bullying crusader after losing his his 16-year-old son to suicide due to bullying in school in 1995.

Thai housewife Angkhana Neelapaijit won the Magsaysay award for “her unwavering courage in seeking justice for her husband, who was abducted in 2004, and many other victims of violence and conflict in southern Thailand,” the Magsaysay awards foundation said, adding “her systematic, unflagging work to reform a flawed and unfair legal system, and the shining proof she is that the humblest ordinary person can achieve national impact in deterring human rights abuses.”

Ryan Cayabyab, the son of a government employee and a Filipina opera singer, made huge contributions as a composer, arranger, music director, conductor, performer, and educator for more than 40 years, it said. He played a role in a movement “to promote a culturally distinct, contemporary Filipino popular music” is “universally liked” and “is virtually omnipresent in the Philippine music industry today,” the Magsaysay foundation said.

The awards are named after a Philippine president who died in a 1957 plane crash. That year a foundation was established to give out the annual awards to honor “greatness of spirit in selfless service to the peoples of Asia.”

Watch Kumar’s acceptance speech:

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