A public art project and website celebrating dissent in Cuba and a collective of young bloggers and web activists who give voice to the opinions of young people from all over the Democratic Republic of Congo are among the winners of the 2018 Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Awards.
The winners, who were announced on Thursday evening at a gala ceremony in London, also include one of the only human rights organisations still operating in Egypt and an investigative journalist from Honduras who regularly risks her life for her right to report on what is happening in the country.
Awards were presented in four categories: arts, campaigning, digital activism and journalism.
The winners are: Cuban art collective The Museum of Dissidence (arts); the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (campaigning); Habari RDC, a collective of young Congolese bloggers and activists (digital activism); and Honduran investigative journalist Wendy Funes (journalism).
“These winners deserve global recognition for their amazing work,” said Index on Censorship CEO Jodie Ginsberg. “Like all those nominated, they brave massive personal and political hurdles simply so that others can express themselves freely.”
Drawn from more than 400 public nominations, the winners were presented with their awards at a ceremony at The Mayfair Hotel, London, hosted by “stand-up poet” Kate Fox.
Actors, writers and musicians were among those celebrating with the winners. The guest list included The Times columnist and chair of Index David Aaronovitch, BBC presenter Jonathan Dimbleby, philosopher AC Grayling, TV journalist Trevor Phillips, lead commissioner for the Commission for Countering Extremism Sara Khan, Serpentine Galleries CEO Yana Peel, poet Sabrina Mahfouz, cartoonist Martin Rowson, founder of the Swedish Pirate Party Rick Falkvinge and more.
Winners were presented with cartoons created by Khalid Albaih, a Romanian-born Sudanese social media based political cartoonist who considers himself a virtual revolutionist.
Each of the award winners will become part of the fourth cohort of Freedom of Expression Awards fellows. They join last year’s winners — 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) — 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.
This year’s panel of judges included Razia Iqbal, a journalist for BBC News, Tim Moloney QC, deputy head of Doughty Street Chambers, Yana Peel, CEO of the Serpentine Galleries, and Eben Upton CBE, a founder of the Raspberry Pi Foundation and CEO of Raspberry Pi.
Awards judge Eben Upton said: “”The ability to speak freely is a key foundation of democratic society and the rule of law: absent the ability to openly identify the abuse of power, extractive economic conditions, and exclusive political institutions, proliferate. This is why freedom of expression is so precious, and so often under attack from those in power.
This is the 18th 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.
Ziyad Marar, President of Global Publishing at SAGE said: “The protection and promotion of free speech is a belief firmly entrenched within our values at SAGE. As both publisher of the magazine and sponsors of tonight’s awards, we are proud to support Index in their mission as they defend this right globally. We offer our warmest congratulations to those recognised and remain both humbled and awed by their inspirational achievements.”