Freedom of Expression Award Winners
They don’t get quite the same media attention as the Academy Awards, but the annual Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Awards are, one could argue, somewhat more important.
Past winners of the award have included al-Jazeera and Julian Assange and Wikileaks. Index on Censorship has been fighting the battle for freedom of expression since its founding by poets Stephen Spender and editor Michael Scammell in 1972. The organization produces a journal, also called Index on Censorship, which for decades has been a significant player at initiating debate, exposing oppression and giving voice to those who have been otherwise silenced.
At a ceremony in London last night, Index presented its 11th awards. “The Guardian Journalism of the Year” award went to Egyptian campaigner and journalist Ibrahim Eissa.
Ibrahim Eissa is no stranger to oppression. During his career in Egypt he has been repeatedly harassed, fired and jailed. In 2008 he spent a few months in jail because he had questioned the health of President Mubarak. In a dictatorship, even the health of the president is a state secret. But Eissa is a disciple of the truth – he founded his own magazine at the age of 15 and called it Al Haqiqa (The Truth).
Last October, in the run up to elections, the 82 year old Mubarak was taking no chances; Eissa, an almost lone voice of independence and resistance, was sacked from his job as editor in chief of the newspaper al-Dostour. Now, just a few months later, it is Mubarak who is unemployed and Eissa is the prize winner. In his acceptance speech the modest Eissa said: “I consider this to be a prize for Tahir Square”.
Other prize winners were Chinese Human Rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng (disappeared by the Chinese state nearly a year ago – the award was accepted on his behalf by his wife), the Tunisian online news service Nawaat.org, Indian artist MF Husain and the Belarus prisoners of conscience.
One would expect that today would be a day in which the free world’s media would celebrate these prize winners. But have you noticed any coverage of these awards in your newspaper?