2007-03-15

Freedom of Expression Awards

Someone has to fight for people with no voice. I guess that person is me.

- Chen Guangcheng

The Index on Censorship presented its 2007 Freedom of Expression Awards today in London. As the organization describes its purpose:
Each year we honour people who have made outstanding contributions, often heroic ones, to the defence of freedom of expression. Awards are given to those who achieved this by making films or writing books, through the law, or their journalism, or for whistleblowing in environments that would deter most of us from the tiniest dissent.

The whistleblower award went to Chen Guangcheng, a self-taught attorney in China's Shandong province. Mr Cheng, also known as 'the barefoot lawyer,' called attention to forced abortions, carried out on women as late as eight months pregnant, and forced sterilisations in the city of Linyi. The operations were carried out in enforcement of the regime's one-child policy.

The award for journalism went to young Egyptian blogger Kareem Amer, recently sentenced to four years in prison for outspoken commentary on Egyptian politics and Islam.

The book award went to Lebanese historian Samir Kassir for Being Arab. Kassir, an outspoken critic of the Syrian occupation of Lebanon, was killed in a car bomb attack in 2005.

The film award went to Yoav Shamir for the documentary Five Days. The film chronicles the evacuation of 8,000 Israelis from a settlement in Gaza to make way for the arrival of 250,000 Palestinians.

The law and campaigning award was presented to Siphiwe Hlophi of Swaziland (also spelled Sempiwe Hlope). Ms Hlophi was diagnosed as HIV positive in 1999. When she subsequently lost both her academic scholarship and her husband, she responded by helping to create Swazis for Positive Living, an organization dedicated to overcoming discrimination against women and HIV/Aids sufferers.

The Index on Censorship, founded by poet Stephen Spender in 1972, upholds freedom of expression as a basic human right.

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