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.
Stand Up For Satire, hosted at the Union Chapel in Islington on 30 July, brought together some of the UK’s top comedians for a night of championing free expression and satire in support of Index on Censorship.
Host Al Murray was joined by a stellar line-up of stand-up comics before a sell-out crowd of 900. Shappi Khorsandi, the host of Index’s 2015 Freedom of Expression Awards, kicked off the evening and joked: “The Iranian regime advocates free speech, but only before not after the expression.” She was followed by Irish comic Grainne Maguire and then comedian, rapper and actor Doc Brown.
Just before the interval, Heydon Prowse from BBC Three’s The Revolution Will Be Televised spoke of the importance of free expression within satire, and appealed to the audience to support Index’s work. Prowse will be joined by Revolution Will Be Televised-partner Jolyon Rubinstein and the cast of Zambezi News, Zimbabwe’s leading satirical news show, in a comedy event hosted by Index on 27 August.
The second half saw performances from comedian and actress Kerry Godliman, and comic and writer Frankie Boyle, before Irish stand-up Andrew Maxwell closed the show.
Index on Censorship has been publishing articles on satire by writers across the globe throughout its 43-year history. Ahead of our event, Stand Up For Satire, we published a series of archival posts from the magazine on satire and its connection with freedom of expression.
Cast members of Zambezi News, pictured left to right – Michael Kudakwashe, Samm Farai Monro, Chipo Chikara and Tongai Makawa
“The fact that there is a thriving satire in Zimbabwe and that we, as the cheeky cast of Zambezi News are still alive, confuses a lot of people,” writes Harare-based comedian Samm Farai Monro, aka Comrade Fatso, in the latest issue of Index on Censorship magazine. His feature, Comedy of Terrors, explores the country’s growing comedy scene and looks at how humour is being used to challenge power.
Monro is the co-founder of Zambezi News, a web series that has been running since 2011, bringing with it a fresh, bolshy and satirical take on the Zimbabwean political system. The show has reached millions of viewers across the country and beyond.
“However,” Monro adds, “being a leading satire show and poking fun at the powerful comes with risks: one of our main actors in Zambezi News has been threatened by people we suspect are security agents.”
Monro writes of the need for Zimbabwean comedians to keep pushing boundaries in the summer 2015 edition of Index on Censorship magazine. He also looks at the emergence of other satirical shows, including Comic King Show and PO Box, and the comedy clubs in Harare that regularly attract capacity crowds. Subscribe here to read the full story and watch some clips of Zambezi News below.
Index on Censorship is hosting its own comedy event at the Union Chapel, Islington, to raise awareness of the importance of satire for free expression worldwide. Stand Up For Satire will be hosted by the Al Murray the Pub Landlord on 30 July, with comedians Frankie Boyle, Shappi Khorsandi, Grainne Maguire, Doc Brown and more. Tickets are £20 for general admission and £15 for concessions; availability is limited.
“After record breaking inflation in 2008, we dumped our currency and stole our neighbour’s notes instead.”
“Do you find foreign governments in your underwear… Well you need sovereignty.”
“The Minister of Transport today came up with an innovative solution to deal with the traffic chaos bedeviling Harare; they’re going to introduce driving licenses.”
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.”
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)
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)
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 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.”
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.