NEWS
#IndexAwards2018: Index announces Freedom of Expression Awards winners
19 Apr 2018
BY INDEX ON CENSORSHIP

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.”

2018 Freedom of Expression Journalism Award-winner and 2018 Journalism Fellow Honduran investigative journalist Wendy Funes; 2018 Digital Activism Fellow Guy Muyembe of the Digital Activism Award-winning Habari RDC; CEO of the Serpentine Galleries Yana Peel holding the 2018 Arts Award on behalf of Cuba's Museo de la Disidencia, who were unable to attend; Mohamed Sameh and Ahmad Abdallah of the 2018 Campaigning Award-winning Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms at the 2018 Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Awards (Photo: Elina Kansikas for Index on Censorship)
2018 Freedom of Expression Journalism Award-winner and 2018 Journalism Fellow Honduran investigative journalist Wendy Funes; 2018 Digital Activism Fellow Guy Muyembe of the Digital Activism Award-winning Habari RDC; CEO of the Serpentine Galleries Yana Peel holding the 2018 Arts Award on behalf of Cuba's Museo de la Disidencia, who were unable to attend; Mohamed Sameh and Ahmad Abdallah of the 2018 Campaigning Award-winning Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms at the 2018 Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Awards (Photo: Elina Kansikas for Index on Censorship)
2018 Campaigning Award sponsor Doughty Street Chambers barrister and 2018 Freedom of Expression Awards judge Tim Moloney QC; Cheryll Simpson, UK bureau chief of Vice News; 2018 Digital Activism Fellow Guy Muyembe of the Digital Activism Award-winning Habari RDC; 2018 Freedom of Expression Journalism Award-winner and 2018 Journalism Fellow Honduran investigative journalist Wendy Funes; Ahmad Abdallah and Mohamed Sameh of the 2018 Campaigning Award-winning Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms; Index on Censorship CEO Jodie Ginsberg; Christel Dahlskjaer of Digital Activism Award sponsor Private Internet Access; Tech evangelist Dr. Sue Black; Yana Peel, CEO of the Serpentine Galleries; Ziyad Marar, Global Publishing Director SAGE Publishing; Stand-up poet Kate Fox, host of the 2018 Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Awards (Photo: Elina Kansikas for Index on Censorship)
2018 Campaigning Award sponsor Doughty Street Chambers barrister and 2018 Freedom of Expression Awards judge Tim Moloney QC; Cheryll Simpson, UK bureau chief of Vice News; 2018 Digital Activism Fellow Guy Muyembe of the Digital Activism Award-winning Habari RDC; 2018 Freedom of Expression Journalism Award-winner and 2018 Journalism Fellow Honduran investigative journalist Wendy Funes; Ahmad Abdallah and Mohamed Sameh of the 2018 Campaigning Award-winning Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms; Index on Censorship CEO Jodie Ginsberg; Christel Dahlskjaer of Digital Activism Award sponsor Private Internet Access; Tech evangelist Dr. Sue Black; Yana Peel, CEO of the Serpentine Galleries; Ziyad Marar, Global Publishing Director SAGE Publishing; Stand-up poet Kate Fox, host of the 2018 Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Awards (Photo: Elina Kansikas for Index on Censorship)

2018 Freedom of Expression Arts Award

Perla Hinojosa, Fellowship and Advocacy Officer at Index on Censorship, holds the 2018 Freedom of Expression Arts Award for Cuban arts collective Museum of Dissidence, who could not attend the Freedom of Expression Awards. (Photo: Index on Censorship)
Perla Hinojosa, Fellowship and Advocacy Officer at Index on Censorship, holds the 2018 Freedom of Expression Arts Award for Cuban arts collective Museum of Dissidence, who could not attend the Freedom of Expression Awards. (Photo: Index on Censorship)

The Museum of Dissidence, Cuba

The Museum of Dissidence is a public art project and website celebrating dissent in Cuba. Set up in 2016 by acclaimed artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara and curator Yanelys Nuñez Leyva, their aim is to reclaim the word “dissident” and give it a positive meaning in Cuba. The museum organises radical public art projects and installations, concentrated in the poorer districts of Havana. Their fearlessness in opening dialogues and inhabiting public space has led to fierce repercussions: Nuñez was sacked from her job and Otero arrested and threatened with prison for being a “counter-revolutionary.” Despite this, they persist in challenging Cuba’s restrictions on expression.

Speech: The Museum of Dissidence: “Freedom of expression is an integral part of all societies”

Profile: Museum of Dissidence creators remain fiercely loyal to their project

2018 Freedom of Expression Campaigning Award

Ziyad Marar, Global Publishing Director of SAGE Publishing, Mohamed Sameh and Ahmad Abdallah of the 2018 Campaigning Award-winning Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms, and 2018 Campaigning Award sponsor Doughty Street Chambers Barrister and 2018 Freedom of Expression Awards judge Tim Moloney QC at the 2018 Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Awards (Photo: Elina Kansikas)
Ziyad Marar, Global Publishing Director of SAGE Publishing, Mohamed Sameh and Ahmad Abdallah of the 2018 Campaigning Award-winning Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms, and 2018 Campaigning Award sponsor Doughty Street Chambers Barrister and 2018 Freedom of Expression Awards judge Tim Moloney QC at the 2018 Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Awards (Photo: Elina Kansikas)

Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms, Egypt

The Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms is one of the few human rights organisations still operating in a country which has waged an orchestrated campaign against independent civil society groups. Egypt is becoming increasingly hostile to dissent, but ECRF continues to provide advocacy, legal support and campaign coordination, drawing attention to the many ongoing human rights abuses under the autocratic rule of President Abdel Fattah-el-Sisi. Their work has seen them subject to state harassment, their headquarters have been raided and staff members arrested. ECRF are committed to carrying on with their work regardless of the challenges.

Speech: ECRF: “No matter how dark is the moment, love and hope are always possible”

Profile: Egytian Commission for Rights and Freedom advocates for a democratic Egypt

2018 Freedom of Expression Digital Activism Award

Guy Muyembe of the Digital Activism Award-winning Habari RDC at the 2018 Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Awards (Photo: Elina Kansikas for Index on Censorship)
Guy Muyembe of the Digital Activism Award-winning Habari RDC at the 2018 Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Awards (Photo: Elina Kansikas for Index on Censorship)

Habari RDC, Congo

Launched in 2016, Habari RDC is a collective of more than 100 young Congolese bloggers and web activists, who use Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to give voice to the opinions of young people from all over the Democratic Republic of Congo. Their site posts stories and cartoons about politics, but it also covers football, the arts and subjects such as domestic violence, child exploitation, the female orgasm and sexual harassment at work. Habari RDC offers a distinctive collection of funny, angry and modern Congolese voices, who are demanding to be heard.

Speech: Guy Muyembe of Habari RDC: “Great is my joy on this day to receive this award on behalf of the Congolese blogging community”

Profile: Habari RDC merges young political minds to fight injustice online

2018 Freedom of Expression Journalism Award

2018 Freedom of Expression Journalism Award-winner and 2018 Journalism Fellow Honduran investigative journalist Wendy Funes at the 2018 Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Awards (Photo: Elina Kansikas for Index on Censorship)
2018 Freedom of Expression Journalism Award-winner and 2018 Journalism Fellow Honduran investigative journalist Wendy Funes at the 2018 Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Awards (Photo: Elina Kansikas for Index on Censorship)

Wendy Funes, Honduras

Wendy Funes is an investigative journalist from Honduras who regularly risks her life for her right to report on what is happening in the country, an extremely harsh environment for reporters. Two journalists were murdered in 2017 and her father and friends are among those who have met violent deaths in the country – killings for which no one has ever been brought to justice. Funes meets these challenges with creativity and determination. For one article she had her own death certificate issued to highlight corruption. Funes also writes about violence against women, a huge problem in Honduras where one woman is killed every 16 hours.

Speech: “I dedicate this prize to my fellow people of Honduras”

Profile: Wendy Funes fearlessly pursues investigative journalism in Honduras

Jodie Ginsberg: "Let’s speak loudly together and lift up the voices not just of Yanelys and Luis, Wendy, Guy and Ahmad but all those fighting to speak freely"

Index on Censorship CEO Jodie Ginbsberg at the 2018 Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Awards (Photo: Elina Kansikas for Index on Censorship)
Index on Censorship CEO Jodie Ginbsberg at the 2018 Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Awards (Photo: Elina Kansikas for Index on Censorship)

In the last four years as head of Index I have used various ways to describe this organisation, but a friend hit it on the head earlier this week when she emailed about a vigil she was organising in London. “Index,” she said “please don’t forget to bring your megaphone.”

And that’s us. That’s what we do. Index brings the megaphone. Both literally and metaphorically.

We amplify the voices of those facing censorship – by publishing their work, by campaigning on their behalf, and by supporting them through initiative like the awards fellowship. And we amplify the cause of freedom of expression by promoting debate about it.

Why do we do it?

We do it because we believe freedom of expression is not just a fundamental freedom, but thefundamental freedom. The one on which all others are based. Without freedom of expression how do we begin to articulate our desire for all other freedoms – the freedom to love whomever we choose, to express our faith – or lack of it – or our political beliefs. Freedom of expression allows us to test our ideas, posit our opinions – and to have those ideas and opinions tested. Freedom of expression is not a freedom that benefits only the powerful and privileged. It is what allows us to hold them to account. Free speech has been at the heart of resistance and reform movements since time immemorial. From women’s suffrage to gay rights. As civil rights activist and US congressman John Lewis observed: “Without freedom of speech and the right to dissent, the Civil Rights movement would have been a bird without wings.”

Full speech

Cuban artists arrested ahead of anti-censorship concert

Authorities arrested artists Yanelyz Nuñez and Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara, MEMBERS OF THE from Otero Alcantara’s home sometime before 6:30am on Saturday 11 August

Independent artists empower Cubans to speak out against censorship

To an outsider, the most startling part of artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara’s arrest on 21 July for attempting to protest on the Capitol steps in Havana was the passivity, bordering on fearful ignorance, of his fellow Cubans at the scene.

Cuban artists arrested for protesting against law restricting public display of art

Their plan was clear: cover yourself with excrement, hold a sign demanding “Free art. No to decree 349” and be visible

Nominations open for 2019 Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Awards Fellowship

Artist? Campaigner? Digital activist? Journalist? Calling all champions of free expression. Make your nomination now.

Index on Censorship is grateful for the support of the 2018 Freedom of Expression Awards sponsors: SAGE Publishing, Google, Private Internet Access, Edwardian Hotels, Vodafone, Vice News, Doughty Street Chambers and former Index Award-winning Psiphon.

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