Winners of Index’s 2022 Freedom of Expression Awards announced
The “bravery and brilliance” of free expression champions from China, Cuba, Russia and Ukraine celebrated at annual awards
31 Oct 22

Author Andrey Kurkov collects the Trustees Award at the 2022 Freedom of Expression Awards

The winners of Index on Censorship’s 2022 Freedom of Expression awards have been announced at a ceremony in London hosted by broadcaster, journalist and commentator Ayesha Hazarika.

The awards, now in their twenty-second year, celebrate those who risk arrest, assault and imprisonment through their championing of freedom of expression. This year’s panel of judges consists of multi-award-winning artist Alison Jackson, artist and writer Coco Fusco, journalist Ben Preston, and Chair of the Index Board of Trustees Sir Trevor Phillips.

Awards were presented in three categories: the arts, campaigning, and journalism, alongside the annual Trustees Award. The winners were:

The 2022 Trustees Award – Andrey Kurkov

Andrey Kurkov is a writer, journalist, and the current president of PEN Ukraine. Born in St Petersburg in 1961, he graduated from the Kiev Foreign Languages Institute, worked as a journalist and did military service as a prison warder in Odessa. He became a writer, producing screenplays and authoring critically acclaimed and popular novels, including Death and the Penguin. Kurkov is a hugely respected commentator on Ukraine, and his most recently translated novel, Grey Bees, explores the current conflict through adventures of a beekeeper.

The 2022 Freedom of Expression Award for Journalism – Sophia Huang Xueqin

Huang Xueqin is an activist and journalist who has worked with several domestic Chinese media outlets. She has reported extensively on the MeToo movement in China. Huang has worked to promote women’s rights, and to document and expose sexual harassment against women and girls. She has faced legal challenges because of her work and was detained between October 2019 and January 2020 after writing about mass protests in Hong Kong.

On 19 September 2021, Huang disappeared. It has since been confirmed that she had been detained along with labour activist Wang Jianbing and charged with “inciting subversion of state power”. She remains in detention and is now held in the No. 1 Detention Centre in Guangzhou. 

The 2022 Freedom of Expression Award for Arts – Hamlet Lavastida

Hamlet Lavastida has been described as a political activist by way of art, using his art to document human rights abuses in Cuba and to criticise Cuban authorities. Lavastida has been involved in various protest movements in Cuba, including the 27N movement which grew out of the protests held on 27 November 2020.

In June 2021, Lavastida was arrested after returning from a residency at the Künstlerhaus Bethanien in Berlin. Following his arrest, Amnesty International named him as a ‘prisoner of conscience’. Lavastida stayed in prison for 87 days. Lavastida has been living in exile in Europe since September 2021, warned that he will be arrested immediately should he ever return to Cuba. 

The 2022 Freedom of Expression Award for Campaigning – OVD-Info

OVD-Info is an independent human rights media project documenting political persecution in Russia. They collect information about detentions at public rallies and other cases of political pressure, publish news and coordinate legal assistance to assist detainees. The organisation was set up in 2011 to document arrests during the widespread anti-fraud protests, the organisation has now evolved to offer legal guidance and support to people arrested at peaceful protests in Russia.

In September 2021, OVD-Info was labelled as a ‘foreign agent’ by Russian authorities. During the ongoing war in Ukraine and associated anti-war protests in Russia, OVD-Info’s work is more important than ever.  Despite a highly unpredictable situation and persistent censorship, OVD-Info continues to support detained and persecuted protesters in Russia.

Ruth Smeeth, Index on Censorship CEO said: “Index on Censorship’s Freedom of Expression awards celebrate the bravery and brilliance of journalists, artists and campaigners from across the globe. Each and every winner is a beacon for free expression, standing up for their democratic rights and values in the face of often unimaginable personal peril. The quiet heroism of our winners gives us all reason to redouble our work to defend free speech and free expression around the globe, give voice to the persecuted, and stand against repression wherever we find it”.

Watch the acceptance videos of the 2022 winners here.


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