Index on Censorship’s Freedom of Expression Awards exist to celebrate individuals or groups who have had a significant impact fighting censorship anywhere in the world.

Awards are offered in four categories: Arts, Campaigning, Digital Activism and Journalism. Anyone who has had a demonstrable impact in tackling censorship is eligible. Winners are honoured at a gala celebration in London. Winners join Index’s Awards Fellowship programme and receive dedicated training and support.


Selected from over 400 public nominations and a shortlist of 16, the 2019 Freedom of Expression Awards fellows exemplify courage in the face of censorship. Learn more about the fellowship.


Zehra Doğan | Turkey

Released from prison on 24 February 2019, Zehra Doğan is a Kurdish painter and journalist who, during her imprisonment, was denied access to materials for her work. She painted with dyes made from crushed fruit and herbs, even blood, and used newspapers and milk cartons as canvases. When she realised her reports from Turkey’s Kurdish region were being ignored by mainstream media, Doğan began painting the destruction in the town of Nusaybin and sharing it on social media. For this she was arrested and imprisoned. During her imprisonment she refused to be silenced and continued to produce journalism and art. She collected and wrote stories about female political prisoners, reported on human rights abuses in prison, and painted despite the prison administration’s refusal to supply her with art materials.

Full profile | Acceptance speech


Cartoonists Rights Network International | United States / International

Cartoonists Rights Network International (CRNI) is a small organisation with a big impact: monitoring threats and abuses against editorial cartoonists worldwide. Marshalling an impressive worldwide network, CRNI helps to focus international attention on cases in which cartoonists are persecuted and put pressure on the persecutors. CRNI tracks censorship, fines, penalties and physical intimidation – including of family members, assault, imprisonment and even assassinations. Once a threat is detected, CRNI often partners with other human rights organisations to maximise the pressure and impact of a campaign to protect the cartoonist and confront those who seek to censor political cartoonists.

Full profile | Acceptance speech

Digital Activism

Fundación Karisma | Colombia

Fundación Karisma is a civil society organisation that challenges online trolls by using witty online ‘stamps’ that flag up internet abuse. It is an initiative that uses humour to draw attention to a serious problem: the growing online harassment of women in Colombia and its chilling effect. The organisation offers a rare space to discuss many issues at the intersection of human rights and technology in the country and then tackles them through a mix of research, advocacy and digital tools. Karisma’s “Sharing is not a crime” campaign supports open access to knowledge against the backdrop of Colombia’s restrictive copyright legislation.

Full profile | Acceptance speech


Mimi Mefo | Cameroon

Mimi Mefo is one of less than a handful of journalists working without fear or favour in Cameroon’s climate of repression and self-censorship. An award-winning broadcast journalist at private media house Equinoxe TV and Radio, Mefo was arrested in November 2018 after she published reports that the military was behind the death of an American missionary in the country. Mefo reports on the escalating violence in the country’s western regions, a conflict that has become known as the “Anglophone Crisis” and is a leading voice in exposing the harassment of other Cameroonian journalists, calling publicly for the release of those jailed.

Full profile | Acceptance speech


The Awards were held at London’s May Fair Hotel on Thursday 4 April 2019.

High-resolution images are available for download via Flickr.



for artists and arts producers whose work challenges repression and injustice and celebrates artistic free expression


for activists and campaigners who have had a marked impact in fighting censorship and promoting freedom of expression

Sponsored by Mainframe


for innovative uses of technology to circumvent censorship and enable free and independent exchange of information

Sponsored by Private Internet Access


for courageous, high-impact and determined journalism that exposes censorship and threats to free expression

Sponsored by Daily Mail and General Trust, Daily Mirror, France Medias Monde, News UK, Telegraph Media Group, Society of Editors


Each year Index recruits an independent panel of judges – leading voices with diverse expertise across campaigning, journalism, the arts and human rights. Judges look for courage, creativity and resilience. We shortlist on the basis of those who are deemed to be making the greatest impact in tackling censorship in their chosen area, with a particular focus on topics that are little covered or tackled by others. Where a judge comes from a nominee’s country, or where there is any other potential conflict of interest, the judge will abstain from voting in that category.

The 2019 judging panel:

Khalid Abdalla
Actor and Filmmaker
Nimco Ali
Writer and Social Activist
Kate Devlin
Writer and Academic
Maria Ressa
CEO and Executive Editor


The Freedom of Expression Awards and Fellowship have massive impact. You can help by sponsoring or supporting a fellowship.

Index is grateful to those who are supporting the 2019 Awards:


If you are interested in sponsorship you can contact [email protected]