HIGHLIGHTS

  • On December 29, 1949, he founded, with the backing of a group of veterans, the Indonesia Raya, of which he is editor-in-chief and part owner.
  • In 1947, he attended the First Asian Conference in New Delhi, India, organized by Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru to encourage independence movements in Asia.
  • By his definition, the “true goals” of the fight for freedom against Dutch colonialism were to achieve democratic rights for the Indonesian people, to guarantee basic human rights to all, to achieve economic justice, prosperity and happiness for the people, and to build traditions of respect for the rule of law in freedom and justice.
  • The RMAF Board of Trustees recognizes “the courageous and constructive contribution he has made in the profession of journalism as a power for the public good.”

 CITATION

R. McCULLOCH DICK, as founder and publisher of a journal that has recently marked its 50th anniversary, has played a pioneering role in establishing and maintaining the tradition of press freedom in the Philippines.The Philippines Free Press has, from its beginning, lived up to its name. The staff has been encouraged to explore every event of significance, regardless of the influence of agencies or personalities that may have been affected. Despite repeated attempts to curtail publication of his journal, Mr. DICK has not wavered in his determination to give to the people of the Philippines a free press.

His weekly magazine has brought to public attention the unsung work of good citizens, prominent and unknown alike, as well as abuses that have not otherwise been reported. It has been, in a sense, a public prosecutor in the cause of fair elections, rule by law and morality in government service.
Consistent with the spirit of the late Ramon Magsaysay, the Free Press has taken up the defense of victims of injustice. And it attends to the concerns of the people who live in the barrios.

MOCHTAR LUBIS is today waging in Indonesia the battle for freedom of the press that R. McCULLOCH DICK has helped to win in the Philippines.

As neither he nor Mrs. Lubis could be present, he has requested that Carlos Nivera, a former Filipino editor, should represent him.

MOCHTAR LUBIS, as editor-in-chief, and part-owner of the Indonesia Raya, has fought against government corruption, the violation of civil liberties by the military and against the inroads of totalitarianism in his country. Since December 1956, he has chosen incarceration over compromise in the interest of enhancing rather than diminishing the area of press freedom in Indonesia.

At a time when this basic freedom is being threatened in many parts of the world, his example gives strength to others who share the belief that free speech and a free press are essential if government is to reflect the will of the people.

In electing to divide the first Ramon Magsaysay Award for Journalism and Literature equally between R. McCULLOCH DICK and MOCHTAR LUBIS, the Board of Trustees recognizes the courageous and constructive contribution each has made in the profession of journalism as a power for the public good.

 RESPONSE

It is with a feeling of greatest inadequacy that I stand here for MOCHTAR LUBIS. MOCHTAR LUBIS is today a great man?and there can be no substitute for greatness.

A few days ago, there came from Indonesia the text of the response which MOCHTAR LUBIS had hoped to deliver before this assembly. Due to limitations of time, I can read to you only a few excerpts from MOCHTAR’s address?an address that reflects a spirit still afire with freedom even after almost two years of confinement.

This is the message from MOCHTAR LUBIS:

“When I first met the late President Ramon Magsaysay at the headquarters of his presidential campaign, I asked him: ‘How do you expect to win this election?’

“He put his hand on my shoulder, grinned and said: ‘With the truth and with the people . . .’

“The task of working for the truth and for the people is not an easy one today in many countries in Asia. In our own time, and in our own specific countries, the task of discovering the truth, the task of serving the people . . . must become an unceasing and vigilant confrontation with the facts of our time.

“And what are these facts?

“The big facts are that despite hard-won freedom, our peoples are still very poor, hungry, ignorant and in some cases they are still exploited . . .

“Many honest and well-meaning people, faced with difficult and seemingly insurmountable problems have become persuaded that democratic reconstruction is impossible in Asia. And this attitude is being helped to grow by communist propaganda and subversion. That is why today in Asia we may find leaders, who yesterday were quite willing to die for democracy and human freedom, but are now easily beginning to say that, in order to achieve freedom from want, it is excusable to do away with freedom of expression, which is another way of saying that democracy and human freedom may be thrown away for the sake of filling the stomachs of the masses . . .

“We maintain that freedom from hunger and freedom of expression are one and indivisible, that democracy, human dignity and freedom are worth fighting for. We maintain that rice alone is not enough and that it is not by rice alone that we can promote and enrich human values, and so give our contribution to the building of a happier human life on our earth. We maintain that no nation can live by itself, but that a nation can only enrich its own life and happiness by living and working together with other nations . . .

“We all know that the voice of truth and the voice of the people can be suppressed: newspapers can be muzzled, journalists can be arrested or even killed, but the ideals of truth, the love for the people, the love for a better mankind and a better and happier world?all these will never die and can never be suppressed.

“Indeed, the challenge of our time is for man to express more fully, more truly, more bravely and honestly his own humanity.

“Ramon Magsaysay is no longer with us. We are here to pay tribute to his ideals, and because of his ideals, he is so much more with us today. Because Ramon Magsaysay understood the challenge of our time, because he responded honestly and bravely to this challenge, he became one of the driving forces of these universal values. In his own time, Ramon Magsaysay became the champion of the common people in the Philippines and the symbol of truth, honesty, courage and freedom in Asia?

“And it is because of this that I most sharply feel my own inadequacy to earn this honor, this Award. I accept it with the greatest humility, and my only hope is that I would be worthy of this great honor bestowed upon me.”

 BIOGRAPHY

MOCHTAR LUBIS was born on March 7, 1922 in Padang, Central Sumatra. The sixth of 10 children of a Demang, or District Commissioner the highest rank an Indonesian could hold in the Dutch administration of Sumatra his elementary education was taken at a Dutch government school in Sungei Penuh, where his father was then posted. The family home atop a small hill in the center of the town was often the gay gathering place of the prominent and talented Sumatran clan to which the father belonged.

Along with the happy recollections of a secure childhood and close family life is the traumatic memory of a particular day when his mother forbade the children to play in the back fruit garden overlooking the district jail at the foot of the hill. While his brothers and sisters dutifully stayed away, the young MOCHTAR’s curiosity took him to a perch in a tree with a commanding view of events below. He saw the Dutch Controller, his father, a doctor and other officials standing in the yard of the jail while three prisoners clad in shorts were laid face down on platforms and their outstretched hands and feet secured as three Indonesian jailers with long, black whips approached. The prisoners, he learned afterward, were escapees from a tea estate in Kerintji whom it had been his father’s onerous duty to apprehend. In an area of large tea and coffee estates farmed by indentured labor mostly from Java on five year contracts that usually lasted a lifetime, the penalty for seeking escape was 80 lashes. The sight and sounds, as punishment was administered, horrified the small, hidden watcher.

“This made the deepest impression on me,” MOCHTAR LUBIS recently wrote, “and even now I can hear their agonized cries. I cannot see injustice, however small, without rebelling in my heart against it.” Though he later came to understand that harsh punishment was common practice for indentured labor in many free as well as colonial areas at the time and that Dutch law could also insure security for the individual, this early initiation to oppression made him from his boyhood a champion of humane treatment and fair play.

(For the complete biography, please email biographies@rmaf.org.ph)