Time Magazine's Person of the Year 2018, Put Simply

By Campaign Agent Matthew Waterfield

For the second year running, Time Magazine have broken with tradition and decided not to give their ‘Person of the Year’ award to an individual. Last year, the accolade went to the women of the #MeToo movement – this year it went to those who work in journalism, referred to as ‘The Guardians’.

It’s not difficult to see why. One of the biggest global events this year has been the aftermath of the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, which is still fresh in people’s minds. Khashoggi was a Saudi dissident who wrote for The Washington Post, regularly criticising his homeland’s royal family.

On 2 October, he was murdered inside the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul, seemingly on the orders of Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammad bin Salman. His assassination was in response to the columns he wrote for The Washington Post, leading to Time putting his picture on one of their front pages, as an example of a journalist who paid the ultimate price for their work.

Though he was likely the inspiration for this year’s selection, he was not the only person to feature on the magazine’s covers. A group of journalists from The Capital, a daily newspaper based in Maryland, also appeared on one of the covers, after a mass shooting at their office this year killed 5 people.

The two remaining covers both featured journalists reporting from Southeast Asia. Maria Ressa, founder of the Filipino news website Rappler, occupied one cover after she was targeted by the Filipino government, following her outlet’s criticism of President Rodrigo Duterte. The other cover highlighted the case of Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, two journalists who were arrested in Burma while investigating the Rohingya crisis for Reuters.

With press freedom coming under pressure across the world, it appears that Time Magazine’s aim was to shine a spotlight on those who have suffered for their vocation, whether that pain be imprisonment or death. While it is already too late for Jamal Khashoggi and the aforementioned 5 employees of The Capital, it remains to be seen what lies in store for the Asian journalists facing persecution for challenging their governments and whether or not the decision by Time to give prominence to their predicaments has any effect.


Sources & Further Reading 

·        ‘Myanmar journalists: Families urge Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo release’, BBC News (12 December 2018)

·        Katie Reilly, ‘The Story Behind TIME’s 2018 Person of the Year Covers’, TIME (11 December 2018)

·        Jamal Khashoggi, ‘Jamal Khashoggi: What the Arab world needs most is free expression’, The Washington Post (17 October 2018)

·        Susan Miller, ‘Capital Gazette shooting: Those who cover the news become the latest victim’, USA Today (28 June 2018)

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