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Two journalists, a musician, a human rights worker, and a father who lost his son to suicide are this year’s winners of the Ramon Magsaysay Award.

NDTV journalist Ravish Kumar has been awarded with the 2019 Ramon Magsaysay Award — the highest honour given to Asian individuals and organizations and often referred to as ‘Asia’s Nobel Prize’, along with four others. 

The other awardees include Journalists Ko Swe Win of Myanmar, Filipino musician Raymundo Pujante Cayabyab, Human rights activist Angkhana Neelapaijit of Thailand and Kim Jong-ki of South Korea.

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 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.

Indian journalist Ravish Kumar has been awarded the 2019 Ramon Magsaysay Award for ‘harnessing journalism to give voice to the voiceless and for his unfaltering commitment to a professional, ethical journalism of the highest standards’.

 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.

 Journalists Ko Swe Win, editor of Myanmar Now is being recognized for “his undaunted commitment to practicing independent, ethical, and socially engaged journalism in Myanmar,” said the awards body. The journalist has been facing defamation charges since 2017 for criticizing ultranationalist Buddhist monk Ashin Wirathu, who has called the stateless Rohingya Muslim minority illegal immigrants. He is known for his “incorruptible sense of justice and unflinching pursuit of the truth in crucial but under-reported issues.”

A 65 year old Filipino musician, Raymundo Pujante Cayabyab, popularly known as Ryan Cayabyan, is another awardee for his compositions and performances. ”His works manifest that music can indeed instill pride and joy, and unify people across the many barriers that divide them,” the award judges said.

Human rights activist Angkhana Neelapaijit of Thailand is given the award this year for her “unwavering courage in seeking justice” for victims of violence and conflict in southern Thailand. 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 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.

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