A Chinese political cartoonist forced into exile and a Russian prisoners and LGBT rights activist convicted under the country’s draconian anti-protest law were among the winners of the 2017 Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Awards.
The winners, announced on Wednesday evening at a gala ceremony in London, also included a crusading news organisation battling corruption in the Maldives and a group tracking Turkey’s internet shutdowns.
Awards were presented in four categories: Arts, Campaigning, Digital Activism and Journalism.
The winners were: Chinese political cartoonist Rebel Pepper (Arts); Russian human rights activist Ildar Dadin (Campaigning); Digital collective Turkey Blocks (Digital Activism); news outlet Maldives Independent and its former editor Zaheena Rasheed (Journalism).
“These winners are free speech heroes who deserve global recognition,” said Index on Censorship CEO Jodie Ginsberg. “They, like all of those nominated, face huge personal and political hurdles in their fight so that others can express themselves freely.”
Drawn more than 400 public nominations, the winners were presented with their awards at a ceremony at the Unicorn Theatre, London, hosted by comedian Katy Brand.
Winners were presented with cartoons created by Aseem Trivedi, an Indian political cartoonist and activist, known for his Cartoons Against Corruption campaign.
Each of the award winners becomes part of the third cohort of Freedom of Expression Awards fellows. They join last year’s winners — Zaina Erhaim (Journalism), Bolo Bhi (Campaigning), GreatFire (Digital Activism), Murad Subay (Arts), Smockey (Music in Exile) — as part of a world-class network of campaigners, activists and artists sharing best practices on tackling censorship threats internationally.
Through the fellowship, Index works with the winners – both during an intensive week in London and the rest of the awarding year – to provide longer term, structured support. The goal is to help winners maximise their impact, broaden their support and ensure they can continue to excel at fighting free expression threats on the ground.
Judges included Harry Potter actor Noma Dumezweni, Hillsborough lawyer Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC, former Vanity Fair editor Tina Brown, as well as Anab Jain, TED fellow and co-founder of Superflux, and Stephen Budd, chairman of the Music Managers Forum.
Awards judge Tina Brown said: “At a time when freedom of expression and press are facing continuous and unprecedented threats around the globe, I am more than ever inspired by the boundless courage and sacrifices of Rebel Pepper, Ildar Dadin, Maldives Independent and Turkey Blocks. Ridiculed, persecuted, imprisoned, tortured, banned or exiled, these writers and activists are putting their lives on the line every day in order to protect basic human rights and fight injustice everywhere.”
This is the 17th year of the Freedom of Expression Awards. Former winners include activist Malala Yousafzai, cartoonist Ali Ferzat, journalists Anna Politkovskaya and Fergal Keane, and Bahrain Center for Human Rights.