The Index Awards Fellowship has become an important element of Index on Censorship’s work – allowing us to help those on the frontlines of defending free speech around the world. Each fellow receives a structured programme of assistance including capacity building, mentoring and networking. Over the course of a year, we also help them accomplish a key goal that will significantly enhance the impact or sustainability of their work.
The 2018 Fellows are continuing to thrive:
Arts fellow the Museum of Dissidence, led by artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara and art curator Yanelys Nuñez Leyva, have put themselves on the line in the fight against Decree 349, a vague law intended to severely limit artistic freedom in Cuba. In November, the two were arrested for peacefully protesting the law. Index campaigned for their release at a solidarity protest at Tate Britain.
Having missed our Freedom of Expression Awards ceremony in April 2018, we were thrilled to present Nuñez Leyva and Otero Alcántara with their award in October at Metal Culture Southend, an arts centre where they were taking part in a two-week residency.
Campaigning fellows the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms continue to highlight human rights abuses and provide support for those facing repression. The group has expanded its reach by opening two new offices around the country and has benefited from technology training provided by Index. Amal Fathy, wife of ECRF executive director Mohamed Lotfy, was released from prison in late December after eight months in detention for her online criticism of sexual harassment in Egypt, but a two-year prison sentence was upheld against the activist, raising fears she could again end up behind bars. Index continues to campaign for Amal at international level.
Digital Activism fellow Habari RDC, a collective of more than 100 young Congolese bloggers and web activists, have been busily covering December’s tense election in the Democratic Republic of Congo and its fallout. Guy Muyembe, president of Habari RDC, said before the elections: “The only thing that is certain about the election is the uncertainty that comes with it.” The continuing tensions threaten to destabilise the country, insecurity and violence. Index has arranged training for Habari RDC with Protection International which will take place early this year.
Journalism fellow Wendy Funes continues to cover corruption and human rights violations in Honduras, a country where violence has become “normalised”. With the help of Index, Wendy is in the process of securing an office for her newspaper which will create a safe space for her team to do their work. She also plans to open the space to other journalists and offer training to students. Wendy has been selected as a judge for the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize and has been able to attain funding which will cover some of her investigations for 2019.