Freedom of Expression Awards 2021

The Nominees

The 2021 Freedom of Expression Awards will take place on 12 September 2021.

There are three nominees in each category, where each inspiring individual will be judged on their outstanding contributions in the areas of the arts, campaigning and journalism.

The full list of the nominees is below.


Daria Apakhonchich

Artist and activist

Daria Apakhonchich is a Russian performance artist and feminist activist. Daria creates artistic performances to protest violence against women and support women’s rights in Russia. She contributed to the ‘Vulva Ballet’ in 2020. The piece was produced in defence of Yulia Tsvetkova, an LGBTQ artist activist and herself a former Index Awards winner, who faces up to six years in prison for her body positive feminist drawings.

In December 2020, Daria learned from media reports that she was the first artist to be labelled a “Foreign Agent” by Russian authorities. She was arrested and fined in January 2021. She also lost her teaching job with the Red Cross due to her activism and feminist engagement.

Émerson Maranhão

Film director

Émerson Maranhão is a Brazilian film director who focuses on LGBTQ+ visibility. Émerson’s last movie, Those Two, follows the lives of two transgender men and their journey towards self-acceptance. In 2019, the Brazilian government halted state funding for films representing LGBTQ themes. A judge later determined that this decision was discriminatory and ordered that funding be reinstated, a victory in a time of rising censorship of LGBTQ+ artistic expression in Bolsonaro’s Brazil.

Tatyana Zelenskaya


Tatyana Zelenskaya is an illustrator from Kyrgyzstan, her works focus on freedom of expression and women’s rights. Tatyana highlights social issues, including domestic violence and women’s rights. More recently, her work has been inspired by the growing anti-government protests which have erupted across Russia and Kyrgyzstan.
In 2020, she created the artwork for the video game Swallows: Spring in Bishkek which raises awareness about bride-kidnapping. The interactive game provides useful information on bride-kidnapping with the aim of challenging traditional perceptions of the practice.




Nandar is a feminist activist, translator and storyteller from Myanmar. Nandar grew up in a village in the north-eastern Shan state of Myanmar. She experienced first-hand the hardships that many women face when living in a society with traditional gender roles. Nandar created a podcast to tackle taboo topics in the country such as menstruation and abortion.
She also founded the Purple Feminists Group to promote feminist literature, challenge mainstream taboos, amplify women and girls’ voices, and raise awareness of gender-based violence.

Anouar Rahmani


Anouar Rahmani is an Algerian writer and human rights defender. Through his writings, Anouar explores human rights issues in Algeria, including those of LGBTQ+ people and those of religious minorities. He is the author of two novels, The City of White Shadow and Jibril’s Hallucination. He has faced significant threats and online harassment for his writings. Rahmani has also been harassed by Algerian authorities due to his work. In 2017, he was arrested for blasphemy and in 2020, he was forced to pay a 50,000 Dinar fine for “insulting state officials”.

Abdelrahman “Moka” Tarek


Abdelrahman “Moka” Tarek is an Egyptian human rights defender and Member of the 6 April Movement. He took part in the 25 January Egyptian Revolution. In 2013 he was arrested at the Shura Council Protest along with 24 other peaceful protesters. He was convicted to 3 years in prison as well as a 3-year suspended sentence.
In September 2019, Abdelrahman was assaulted by a police officer as he was serving his suspended sentence at Qsar Al-Nil Police station. He disappeared soon after sharing this aggression on social media. Since then, new terrorism-related charges have been pressed against him and he was sent back to Tora prison.


Kadar Abdi Ibrahim

Activist and journalist

Kadar Abdi Ibrahim is a human rights activist and journalist from Djibouti. Kadar Abdi Ibrahim was the co-director and chief editor of L’Aurore, Djibouti’s only privately-owned media outlet. In 2016, the newspaper was banned following the publication of a story about the massacre of 29 people, understood to have been perpetrated by state forces. In April 2018, just days after returning from Geneva, intelligence service agents raided his house and confiscated his passport. He has been unable to leave the country since then.

Verónica Chávez


Verónica Chávez is the co-owner of 100% Noticias, an online Nicaraguan media outlet dedicated to providing critical journalism. Despite President Daniel Ortega’s strict crackdown on media in Nicaragua, 100% Noticias has continued to provide critical journalism. In 2018, police raided the offices of 100% Noticias, confiscated the station’s equipment and arrested Chávez, her husband journalist Miguel Mora and news director Lucia Pineda. Chávez was subsequently released, but Mora and Pineda were charged and imprisoned for a year. Chávez continued to run 100% Noticias during that time.
Ortega’s intimidation recently intensified and in October 2020, Chávez was assaulted by members of paramilitary groups close to the government which left her in intensive care. The international community has condemned the attack.

Samira Sabou

Journalist and blogger

Samira Sabou is a Nigerien journalist, blogger and president of the Niger Bloggers for Active Citizenship Association (ABCA). In June 2020, Sabou was arrested and charged with defamation under the 2019 cybercrime law in connection with a Facebook post highlighting corruption. She spent over a month in detention before eventually being released.
Through her work with ABCA, she conducts training sessions on disseminating information on social media based on journalistic ethics. She teaches journalists and bloggers how to continue to publish despite a cybercrime law, enacted in 2019, which severely restricts freedom of expression in the country.
Sabou is also active in promoting girls’ and women’s right to free expression and has championed women’s leadership through her work.