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Index welcomes the news that Bahraini human rights activist Nabeel Rajab has been freed from prison. Rajab, the president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights and an Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Award winner in 2012, had been held since 2016 and convicted of offences including “spreading fake news”.
Rajab had tweeted about torture in Bahrain’s jails and had criticised the war in Yemen. As Index wrote during one of his many appeals: “Those are not crimes. Opinions are not crimes.”
Rajab has suffered relentless harassment since his involvement as a peaceful activist during the Bahrain uprising in 2011, during which he was in and out of prison on numerous occasions. He was then in prison on a continual basis from June 2016, and was sentenced in all to seven years in prison across two separate trials. In February 2018 he was sentenced to five years in prison for tweeting, which was added to a two-year conviction in June 2017 for “broadcasting fake news” relating to television interviews he gave in 2015.
On Tuesday, Rajab’s lawyer said he would serve the remainder of his sentence in a non-custodial setting.
“This is amazing news. Index on Censorship has been pushing for this for a long time,” said Rachael Jolley, editor-in-chief at Index.
But while we welcome news of his release and reunion with his family, we still demand that all charges are dropped against Rajab, as well as all others who are imprisoned in Bahrain simply for their views and advocacy.
This year, one of the co-winners of the Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Awards Campaigning category was Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, a Bahraini activist currently living in exile in the UK who is the director of advocacy at the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy. As Alwadaei said when accepting the award in April:
“The price for expressing yourself in Bahrain remains very high. I myself ended up in prison for speaking to the press during the Arab Spring.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”3/4”][/vc_column][/vc_row]
Doughty Street Chambers and Index on Censorship are delighted to announce Doughty Street’s renewed sponsorship of Index’s Freedom of Expression Awards and an extension to Doughty Street’s support for the organisation.
Doughty Street – a leading human rights and civil liberties practice – has supported the Freedom of Expression Awards for the past two years and has committed to continue for the next three. The awards honour those at the forefront of tackling censorship globally and are offered in four categories: arts, digital advocacy, journalism and campaigning. Previous award winners include campaigner Malala Yousafzai, conductor Daniel Barenboim and cartoonist Ali Ferzat.
In addition to their support for the awards, Doughty Street will provide Index with pro-bono support for the duration of its sponsorship and collaborate on other initiatives, including support for the organisation’s events programme.
Robin Jackson, chief executive, Doughty Street Chambers, said: “When I first attended the Index awards, I was absolutely humbled by the stories of the work and commitment to freedom of expression of unsung but very real heroes around the world – I think this is the reaction of everyone who attends the event, and it is still mine today. The synergy between what we try to achieve at Doughty Street and what Index on Censorship so effectively promotes makes us obvious partners. I am delighted that we have chosen Index as our principal charity and have committed to support both the awards and Index’s other work in striving for what has to become a fundamental freedom in practice as well as in principle.”
Edward Fitzgerald CBE QC, joint head of Doughty Street Chambers and former judge of the Freedom of Expression Awards, said: “Freedom of expression is both a right and a responsibility. Index on Censorship brings to the fore not only the complex issues which need to be discussed but more importantly the names and actions of those who struggle against the political, legal and cultural oppression of this right, most often in the face of violence, persecution and imprisonment. Index’s work is invaluable and we at Doughty Street want to play a part in furthering it; I would also encourage others to commit to this responsibility.”
One of the first events on which Doughty Street and Index will collaborate is ‘Writing the World: Voices of the Censored’ – a reading of works by silenced artists and a panel discussion with authors and actors including Costa Award winner Christie Watson and former RSC actor Janet Suzman, at Kew Gardens in September.
“We are delighted to be extending our partnership with Doughty Street Chambers,” said Jodie Ginsberg, Index on Censorship chief executive. “Since its foundation in 1990, Doughty Street, like Index, has been at the forefront of challenging freedom of expression threats and defending fundamental civil liberties. We are pleased to be working with such an esteemed group of legal experts.”
For more information, contact: 0207 260 2660 or [email protected]
Index award-winning newspaper Azadliq, widely recognised as one of the last remaining independent news outlets operating inside the country, is facing imminent closure. This comes amid an ongoing crackdown on critical journalists and human rights activists in Azerbaijan, and as the country is hosting the inaugural European Games in the capital Baku.
A statement from the paper, quoted Thursday on news site Contact, outlined its “difficult financial situation”.
“If the problems are not resolved in the shortest possible time, the publication of the newspaper will be impossible,” it read.
“The closure of an independent media outlet like Azadliq, which Azerbaijani officials have suffocated over the past two years, flies in the face of repeated assurances from President Ilham Aliyev that his government respects press freedom. The fact that this financial crisis is occurring during the Baku European Games just underlines the shameful disregard that the Azerbaijani government has for freedom of expression,” said Index on Censorship CEO Jodie Ginsberg.
Azadliq has long faced an uphill battle to stay in business. Thursday’s statement merely detailed the latest development in a serious financial crisis, brought about at the hands of Azerbaijani authorities.
In July 2014, Azadliq was forced to suspend print publication. Editor Rahim Haciyev told Index that the government-backed distributor had refused to pay out the some £52,000 it owed the paper, which meant it could not pay its printer.
The paper has also seen its finances squeezed through being banned from selling copies on tube stations and the streets of Baku, and being slapped with fines of some £52,000 following defamation suits in 2013. The paper was also evicted from its offices in 2006 and its journalists have been repeatedly targeted by authorities. Seymur Hezi, for instance, was in January sentenced to five years in prison for “aggravated hooliganism” — charges widely dismissed as trumped up and politically motivated.
Azadliq — meaning “freedom” in Azerbaijani — has appealed to the public for help to stay afloat, urging “those who defend the freedom of speech in Azerbaijan” to join in the campaign to save the paper.
This comes after the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) condemned “the crackdown on human rights in Azerbaijan”. In a resolution adopted on Wednesday 24 June, PACE called on authorities to “put an end to systemic repression of human rights defenders, the media and those critical of the
South African photographer and human rights campaigner Zanele Muholi won the Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Arts Award in 2013.
Writer, campaigner and broadcaster Bidisha joins her in London to discuss the power of art in activism and the importance of visibility and representation in combating prejudice and human rights abuse.
Zanele will also be discussing her Deutsche Börse Photography Prize 2015 nominated work Faces and Phases which is currently on display at The Photographers’ Gallery, London (17 Apr – 7 Jun) and at the Brooklyn Museum, New York (1 May – 1 Nov)
WHEN: Tuesday 26th May 2015, 6.30pm
WHERE: London College of Fashion, London, W1G 0BJ
TICKETS: £12 with promo code PGMEMBER (normally £20) / available here