- Documents on Democracy
On May 6–9, the World Movement for Democracy held its Ninth Assembly in Dakar, Senegal. The gathering brought together 350 democracy activists, practitioners, and scholars representing more than a hundred countries for workshops and panel discussions on the theme "Building Strategic Partnerships for Democratic Renewal." Discussion focused on priorities presented in the World Movement's 2015 statement, "A Call for Democratic Renewal," including the defense of civil society, deepening democratic unity, and protecting the integrity of the information space.
The Assembly opened on May 6 with remarks by Isatou Touray, trade minister of the Gambia, and U.S. Representative Karen Bass (D-Calif.). On May 8, a keynote address was delivered on behalf of Rached Ghannouchi, cofounder and president of Tunisia's Ennahdha Party, who also spoke by video on the topic of Islam, pluralism, and democracy in Tunisia (see his remarks on pp. 5–8 above). The program concluded on May 9 with the presentation of the World Movement's Democracy Courage Tributes, recognizing photojournalists in the Philippines, defenders of the rule of law in Africa, and human-rights lawyers in China. (To view the full program, visit: www.movedemocracy.org/ninthassembly.) Excerpts from the honorees' acceptance remarks appear below.
Ezra Acayan and Raffy Lerma accepted the Courage Tribute on behalf of the Philippine Nightwatcher movement, photojournalists who document the extrajudicial killings resulting from President Rodrigo Duterte's "war on drugs." Acayan and Lerma highlighted the importance of a "free and fearless press" for promoting human rights and accountability. Excerpts from their remarks appear below:
Ezra Acayan: We spend long nights on the ground waiting to document the next crime scene, while everyone else sleeps. We spend weekends attending funerals, rather than spending time with our families. As a group, [End Page 182] we've probably seen thousands of corpses in the past two years. We've probably attended hundreds of funerals already.
The police and the government have made it difficult for us to gather information. They have barred us from getting official police reports of these incidents. They have been taking bodies of dead suspects to the hospital, claiming that they were "rescuing" them, so that journalists won't have any corpse to see at the crime scene.
My colleagues and I have made a lot of sacrifices to continue our work. In the absence of mainstream media outfits willing to publish these stories, a few of us have left our jobs just so we can keep documenting these killings, using up our own time and our own resources.
We have been constantly threatened and harassed. We receive death threats daily. We have been told how we were going to be killed. Our families have been threatened with rape.
Despite all of this, we will not stop. These pictures should never have been possible. As journalists, it is our duty to tell the truth of this brutality and slaughter of mostly defenseless and poor people. We hope to remind the public that these victims are not "monsters" as our president calls them—that they are not just numbers in a death toll.
We hope to remind the public that they too have names. That they too were fathers, mothers, siblings, children, and friends. That they too have loved ones who are the ones who suffer in the wake of their deaths. That these victims too deserve equal protection of the law and due process. That they too are humans.
We dedicate this award to all our hardworking colleagues back home. We will not stop telling these stories. We will keep telling their stories long after their deaths. We will keep telling their stories even long after they have received justice. We will keep telling their stories so that history may not repeat itself.
We will keep telling these stories despite the difficulties and the lack of resources. We will not stop despite the harassment and threats to our lives. As journalists we are just doing our jobs. As journalists it is our duty to give these victims a voice. As journalists this is what we owe to society.
Raffy Lerma: Thousands have been killed in the Philippine government's brutal crusade against...