A cover story highlighted the role of journalists, including Reuters’ Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who Myanmar imprisoned for violating a state secrets act, and Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi writer and critic of the nation’s de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who was slain two months ago inside a Saudi Arabian consulate in Turkey.
“I hope that this is received by the public at large far, far beyond the United States as a reminder of the importance of defending free expression and the pursuit of truth and facts,” Ben Goldberger, Time magazine’s assistant managing editor, said during an interview. “That is the baseline for all free societies. Democracy certainly cannot function without a shared understanding of the facts.”
The annual distinction is intended to recognise the person, group or idea that had the greatest influence on world events that year. It has been given to a wide range of influencers, from US civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr and Queen Elizabeth to Adolf Hitler, the leader of Nazi Germany, who was honoured before the start of WWII.
It’s been one year since Reuters journalists Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, were imprisoned for their work investigating the killing of villagers from Myanmar’s Muslim Rohingya minority by the country’s security forces and civilian mobs. They were convicted on 3 September under the colonial-era Official Secrets Act in a case seen as a test of democratic freedoms in Myanmar.
Khashoggi was killed two months ago at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul when he went there to collect documents for his forthcoming marriage. He is the first person to be named a Time Person of the Year after his death.
Time also honoured Maria Ressa, the founder of the Philippine news site Rappler, which has been a frequent critic of Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte, and the staff of the Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis, Maryland, where a gunman shot and killed five people in June.
The four groups were highlighted on four separate covers of the magazine, one of which features the wives of the imprisoned Reuters reporters embracing one another as they hold photos of their husbands. (Courtesy Reuters)