#IndexAwards2017: Harry Potter actor Noma Dumezweni to judge leading free speech awards

Harry Potter actor Noma Dumezweni, Doughty Street Chambers lawyer Caiolfhionn Gallagher, former Vanity Fair editor Tina Brown, Superflux co-founder Anab Jain and Heaven 17’s former manager Stephen Budd.

Harry Potter actor Noma Dumezweni will join a panel of judges that also includes Hillsborough lawyer Caiolfhionn Gallagher and former Vanity Fair editor Tina Brown to decide the 2017 Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Award winners.

The awards, now in their 17th year, honour those at the forefront of challenging censorship in the field of arts, campaigning, journalism and digital advocacy. Many of the winners face regular persecution for their work.

Dumezweni, who plays Hermione in the stage play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, was shortlisted earlier this year for an Evening Standard Theatre Award for Best Actress. Speaking about the importance of the Index Awards she said: “Freedom of expression is essential to help challenge our perception of the world”.

Caoilfhionn Gallagher is a public law specialist at Doughty Street Chambers who represented the bereaved families in the 7/7 London bombings, and the Hillsborough football stadium tragedy. In October 2016 she was named Human Rights and Public Law Junior of the Year at the Chambers UK Bar Awards.

“Freedom of expression is needed now more than ever, as many governments worldwide are attempting to stifle critical voices. Some do this in ways which are blatant breaches of fundamental freedoms, others’ methods are more subtle but still pose a significant threat to free speech and democracy. Now, more than ever, we must fight to protect and champion freedom of expression,” said Gallagher.

Other judges on the panel include Tina Brown, an award-winning journalist and former editor-in-­chief of Tatler, Vanity Fair and The New Yorker; Anab Jain, TED fellow and co-founder of Superflux, a company focused on emerging technologies; and Stephen Budd, chairman of the Music Managers Forum and co-founder of Damon Albarn’s ‘Africa Express’ musical collaborations project.

Announcing the judging panel, Index on Censorship chief executive Jodie Ginsberg said: “No one should be punished for speaking freely — yet across the world we see journalists muzzled for challenging politicians, musicians silenced for questioning the status quo, or cartoonists forced to drop their pens because they mocked the powerful and the corrupt.”

“Our awards celebrate those who fight back. And we’re delighted to have such an impressive panel selecting this year’s winners.”

Previous winners of the Freedom of Expression awards include Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai, Israeli conductor Daniel Barenboim, and Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya. Hundreds of public nominations are made for the awards each year. Many of those nominated are regularly targeted by authorities or by criminal and extremist groups for their work. Some face regular death threats, others criminal prosecution.

Previous judges include digital campaigner and entrepreneur Martha Lane Fox, Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka, novelist Elif Shafak, journalist and campaigner Mariane Pearl, and human rights lawyer Keir Starmer.

The Freedom of Expression Awards 2017 will be held on April 19 at the Unicorn Theatre.

For more information, please contact Helen Galliano: [email protected].

Notes for editors

Index on Censorship, founded in 1972 by poet Stephen Spender, campaigns for freedom of expression worldwide. Its award-winning quarterly magazine has featured writers such as Vaclav Havel, Nadine Gordimer, Arthur Miller, Philip Pullman, Salman Rushdie, Aung San Suu Kyi and Amartya Sen.

Award winners become Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Award Fellows and receive training and support for a year after the awards to help them maximise the impact of their work.

Nominations open for Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Awards 2016


  • Awards honour journalists, campaigners and artists fighting censorship globally
  • Judges will include poet and playwright Wole Soyinka, pianist James Rhodes and human rights lawyer Kirsty Brimelow 
  • Nominate at indexoncensorship.org/nominations
  • Nominations are open from 15 September to 19 October 2015

Beginning today, nominations for the Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Awards 2016 are open. Now in their 16th year, the awards have honoured some of the world’s most remarkable free expression heroes – from Israeli conductor Daniel Barenboim to Syrian cartoonist Ali Farzat to education activist Malala Yousafzai.

The awards shine a spotlight on individuals fighting to speak out in the most dangerous and difficult of conditions.

Index invites the public, NGOs and media organisations to nominate anyone they believe deserves to be part of this impressive peer group: a hall of fame of some of those at the forefront of tackling censorship worldwide.

There are four categories in Index on Censorship’s Freedom of Expression Awards:

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

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

• Digital Activism for innovative uses of technology to circumvent censorship and enable free and independent exchange of information.

• Journalism for courageous, high impact and determined journalism that exposes censorship and threats to free expression.

Winners will be flown to London for the gala ceremony, which will take place at The Unicorn Theatre in London on 13 April 2016. In 2015, the ceremony was hosted by comedian Shappi Khorsandi, with awards presented by judges and special guests including Martha Lane Fox, Mariane Pearl, Elif Shafak and Keir Starmer.

Winners also become awards fellows and receive support to amplify their work for free expression. As fellows, winners become part of a world-class network of campaigners, activists and artists sharing best practice on tackling censorship threats internationally.

Jodie Ginsberg, CEO of Index, said: “The Freedom of Expression Awards turn up the volume on the censored and silenced. I encourage everyone, no matter where they are in the world, to nominate a free expression hero so their voices can be heard.”

The 2016 awards shortlist will be announced in late January 2016.

Judges in 2016 will include Nobel prize-winning Nigerian poet and playwright Wole Soyinka; Kirsty Brimelow QC, a human rights barrister and chair of The Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales; and classical pianist James Rhodes, whose memoir Instrumental was published earlier this year after the UK Supreme Court overturned a publication ban.

Rhodes said: “The Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko once wrote: ‘When truth is replaced by silence, the silence is a lie’ – and to honour those who fight to speak out and break that silence is a privilege. Having experienced first hand the terrifying impact of censorship, I’m thrilled to be able to play a small part in acknowledging the bravery of those who continue to express themselves in the face of unimaginable oppression.”

For more information on the awards, please contact [email protected] or call +44 (0)207 260 2660.

Index announces winners of 15th annual Freedom of Expression Awards

A Kenyan woman speaking out for women in one of the world’s most dangerous regions and a female journalist who exposed an unreported uprising in Saudi Arabia are among the winners of this year’s Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Awards.

“Our shortlisted nominees are all tackling direct and serious threats to stifle free speech,” said Index on Censorship CEO Jodie Ginsberg. “We were humbled and inspired by their stories, and their dedication to ensuring we can all speak freely.”

The awards were presented at a ceremony at The Barbican, London, hosted by comedian Shappi Khorsandi whose father Hadi was forced into exile from Iran because of his satirical writing.

Index on Censorship 2015 Freedom of Expression award winners: Journalism: Rafael Marques de Morais, journalism recipient Safa Al Ahmad, campaigning recipient Amran Abdundi, arts recipient Mouad “El Haqed” Belghouat and digital activism recipient Tamas Bodoky

Index on Censorship 2015 Freedom of Expression award winners: Rafael Marques de Morais (journalism), Safa Al Ahmad (journalism), Amran Abdundi (campaigning), Mouad “El Haqed” Belghouat (arts) and Tamas Bodoky (digital activism) (Photo: Alex Brenner for Index on Censorship)

Awards are presented in four categories: journalism, arts, campaigning and digital activism. The winners were Saudi journalist Safa Al Ahmad and Angolan reporter Rafael Marques de Morais (journalism – jointly awarded); Moroccan rapper “El Haqed” (arts); Kenyan women’s rights campaigner Amran Abdundi (campaigning); and Hungarian freedom of information website Atlatszo (digital activism).

The crime of free expression

 Journalist and campaigner Mariane Pearl, journalism award recipient Rafael Marques de Morais, Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger and journalism award recipient Safa Al Ahmad (Photo: Alex Brenner for Index on Censorship)

Journalist and campaigner Mariane Pearl, journalism award recipient Rafael Marques de Morais, Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger and journalism award recipient Safa Al Ahmad (Photo: Alex Brenner for Index on Censorship)

Al Ahmad was recognised for her documentary Saudi’s Secret Uprising, which exposed details of an unreported mass demonstration in Saudi Arabia. “Safa Al Ahmad dared to go into places that are difficult for women and for reporters, to bring that information back and share it with the world,” said Turkish author Elif Shafak, one of the five judges. Saudi Arabia is a mystery, even to its own people, said Al Ahmad in her acceptance speech: “Parts of our history is deliberately concealed, the present is muddled with rumours and half-truths. The government-owned and controlled media play a major role in the dissemination of those false realities of ourselves and others. This makes facts a precious commodity in Saudi Arabia.”

Angolan investigative reporter Marques de Morais has been repeatedly prosecuted for his work exposing government and industry corruption and will go on trial on 24 March charged with defamation. “Rafael is a very important individual doing very important work in a very, very difficult environment,” said judge Sir Keir Starmer QC. Marques de Morais dedicated his speech to the Zone 9 group of Ethiopian bloggers currently in jail “for the crime of exercising their right to freedom of expression”.

Doughty Street barrister Keir Starmer, campaigning award recipient Amran Abdundi and Index on Censorship CEO Jodie Ginsberg (Photo: Alex Brenner for Index on Censorship)

Doughty Street barrister Keir Starmer, campaigning award recipient Amran Abdundi and Index on Censorship CEO Jodie Ginsberg (Photo: Alex Brenner for Index on Censorship)

The winner in the campaigning category, Amran Abdundi, is a women’s rights activist based in north-eastern Kenya and runs a group helping women along the dangerous border with Somalia, where terrorism and extremist violence dominate. Judge Martha Lane Fox said: “Amran Abdundi was a standout candidate for me. She is doing something incredibly powerful in an unbelievably complicated and dangerous situation.” Abdundi dedicated her award to the “marginalised women of northern Kenya… who will now know that their struggles and their efforts to fight for their rights are being recognised internationally”.

Help us let the world know the truth

Arts category winner Mouad “El Haqed” Belghouat, novelist Elif Shafak and actor Stella Odunlami (Photo: Alex Brenner for Index on Censorship)

Arts category winner Mouad “El Haqed” Belghouat, novelist Elif Shafak and actor Stella Odunlami (Photo: Alex Brenner for Index on Censorship)

Arts category winner Mouad “El Haqed” Belghouat is a Moroccan rapper and human rights activist whose music highlights widespread poverty and endemic government corruption in Morocco. He has been imprisoned on spurious charges three times in as many years, most recently in 2014. Belghouat said in his acceptance speech: “I have been through difficult times: I was jailed, fired from my work, rejected by many friends. I am still forbidden to sing in my own country. But after all that I am still determined that I will never change my position. I will fight for freedom, equality and human rights for ever.” Lane Fox said Belghouat had taken his music and “translated it into a kind of online activism, but then, crucially, mobilised people in the street”.

The digital award, decided by public vote, went to Hungarian investigative news outlet Atlatszo.hu managed by Tamás Bodoky. The website acts as watchdog to a Hungarian government which has increasingly tightened its grip on press freedom in the country. Editor-in-chief Bodoky said Atlatszo.hu called on all those who believe that independent journalism in Hungary is under threat. “All those who agree that politics and business interests have sunk their claws into everyday life. All those who know that taxpayer money is vanishing. We are calling on you to help us let the world know the truth.”

Martha Lane Fox, Tamas Bodoky and Jolyon Rubinstein (Photo: Alex Brenner for Index on Censorship)

Entrepreneur Martha Lane Fox, digital activism award recipient Tamas Bodoky and actor Jolyon Rubinstein (Photo: Alex Brenner for Index on Censorship)

The awards were presented by the judges along with special guests including Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger.

A special award was also given on the evening to honour the many Azerbaijani journalists and activists jailed or forced into exile or hiding following a recent crackdown by the government. Former award winner and journalist Idrak Abbasov, who was forced to flee Azerbaijan last year, accepted the award on behalf of all those facing persecution in the country. “I call upon the world community to help Azerbaijan… so that our colleagues might be released and that our country might become a normal state in which we and others might live freely,” Abbasov told the audience in a video speech.

The evening featured an exhibition of specially commissioned cartoons by international cartoonists, reflecting on the past 12 months for free expression. Most of the artists had direct experience of persecution over their work, including Syrian political cartoonist Ali Ferzat – a former Index award winner – and Malaysia’s Zunar. “In the wake of the attacks on Charlie Hebdo, we wanted to pay homage to the work of cartoonists who are so often the first to face censorship in any move to stifle free expression,” said Index’s Jodie Ginsberg.

Safa Al Ahmad: Facts are a precious commodity in Saudi Arabia
Rafael Marques de Morais: I believe in the power of solidarity
Amran Abdundi: This award is for the marginalised women of northern Kenya
El Haqed: I will fight for freedom, equality and human rights for ever
Tamas Bodoky: The independence of journalism in Hungary is under threat
Special Index Freedom of Expression Award given to persecuted Azerbaijani activists and journalists
Video: Comedian Shappi Khorsandi hosts Index on Censorship awards
Drawing pressure: Cartoonists react to threats to free speech

An earlier version of this article stated that Rafael Marques de Morais will go on trial on 23 March. The date is 24 March.

This article was posted on 18 March 2015 at indexoncensorship.org