Katharina R. Lestari, Jakarta – Watchdoc Media Mandiri, an independent media project founded by two activist journalists in Indonesia, is one of five winners of this year's Ramon Magsaysay Award.
The Ramon Magsaysay Foundation's board of trustees said it recognized the "highly principled crusade for an independent media organization" by Andhy Panca Kurniawan and Dandhy Dwi Laksono, who founded Watchdoc (a combination of watchdog and documentary) in 2009.
They further lauded their "commitment to a vision of the people themselves as makers of media and shapers of their own world" and the effort to transform the country's media landscape with an "energetic use of investigative journalism, documentary filmmaking and digital technology."
Watchdoc has produced and distributed over 150 documentary films with 200,000 viewers per video on average. Its works include Sexy Killers, a controversial documentary showing the coal mining industry's links to Indonesia's political establishment.
The board of trustees said a great part of the production house's influence is the credibility it enjoys because of its reputation for journalistic integrity. "They have refused bribes or partnerships with known violators of human rights and environmental laws," it said.
In a statement issued on Aug. 31, Kurniawan acknowledged that he never expected to receive the award. "I am surprised but also happy. We, too, feel that we have not yet gone 'that far.' With a humble heart, we accept the award," he said.
We must be more systematic in presenting the reality among society because this award is given to an organization instead of an individual
Talking after the announcement of the award on a discussion program shown on Watchdoc's YouTube channel, Kurniawan said his team will continue to be humble, to learn and to produce films with more meaningful messages for the public.
"Besides, we are planning to build 'a kind of school' which is very cheap. We need to work together with many parties for this cause ... Yet we will surely keep our free service. This is our spirit so that the public can have an access to our films," he added.
The production house's films have been distributed through various platforms including open-air screenings in villages, schools and universities.
Meanwhile, Laksono called the award "a reminder" and said: "We must be more systematic in presenting the reality among society because this award is given to an organization instead of an individual."
Watchdoc received the Gwangju Prize for the promotion of human rights in January.