Archive for the 'awards' Category

European Lawyers in Lesvos awarded Pax Christi Peace Prize 2019

August 14, 2019

Pax Christi International honoured the European Lawyers in Lesvos (ELIL) as the recipient of the 2019 Pax Christi International Peace Prize at a ceremony held in Brussels on Wednesday evening, 26 June.

The prize was accepted by “European Lawyers in Lesvos” (ELIL’s) managing director, Philip Worthington, who delivered a speech on the work of ELIL and their efforts to protect the human rights of migrants and refugees in crisis. The evening began with a speech highlighting the centrality of recognising the human dignity of every person by Bishop Kevin Dowling (Rustenburg, South Africa), Co-President of Pax Christi International. His speech was followed by his counterpart, Ms Marie Dennis, Co-President of Pax Christi International, addressing the importance of the refugee crisis to Pax Christi sections and member organisations around the world and how we are inspired by the work of ELIL. Ms. Greet Vanaerschot, Pax Christi International’s Secretary General, presented the award to Mr Worthington. Attendees were treated to musical interludes by recording artist Zem. A reception followed the one-hour ceremony.

One of the very few providers of legal assistance on the Greek island of Lesvos (also known as Lesbos, a focal point of mass immigration into Europe), ELIL was founded in June 2016 by the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE) and the German Bar Association (DAV). Since that time, along with a small permanent staff, almost 150 volunteer asylum lawyers from 17 countries have provided free legal assistance to more than 9,000 people, most of whom are from Syria, Iraq or Afghanistan. ELIL is the largest provider of legal assistance to asylum seekers on Lesvos and is the primary provider of legal assistance to unaccompanied minors who have been incorrectly registered as adults (over 500 cases in total) and asylum seekers in detention (almost 200 cases in total). In addition to other services, ELIL also helps reunite families by assisting with family reunification applications under the Dublin Regulation.

Established in 1988, the Pax Christi International Peace Award is funded by the Cardinal Bernardus Alfrink Peace Fund and honours contemporary individuals and organisations who make a stand for peace, justice and nonviolence in different parts of the world. For text and videos of the speeches, photos of the ceremony & more, please click HERE.

Read more about European Lawyers in Lesvos (ELIL): www.europeanlawyersinlesvos.eu

Saudi lawyer Waleed Abu al-Khair winner of ABA human rights award

August 14, 2019

Waleed Abu al-Khair

Waleed Abu al-Khair.

Saudi human rights lawyer Waleed Abu al-Khair, who was convicted on anti-terrorism charges and sentenced to 15 years in prison, is the winner of the 2019 ABA International Human Rights Award. For more on this and other awards for human rights lawyers see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/aba-international-human-rights-award

The ABA Journal states that Abu al-Khair founded Monitor for Human Rights, one of the only human rights organizations in Saudi Arabia, in 2008. He dedicated his legal career to defending human rights and the right to freedom of expression, and pushed for an elected parliament, independent judiciary, constitutional monarchy and other reforms in his country. Abu al-Khair’s 2014 arrest and conviction largely stemmed from comments he made to the media and on social media that criticized Saudi Arabia’s human rights record, discussions of human rights in his home and his defense of activists who were punished for criticizing the government, according to Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. The human rights organizations say the specific charges against him included disobeying the ruler and seeking to remove his legitimacy; insulting the judiciary and questioning the integrity of judges; setting up an unlicensed organization; harming the reputation of the state by communicating with international organizations; and preparing, storing and sending information that harms public order.

His full 15-year sentence was upheld by a Saudi appeals court in 2015 after he refused to apologize for the alleged offenses. He is currently in the Dhahban Central Prison in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The United Nations Human Rights Council’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has twice reviewed the legitimacy of Abu al-Khair’s detention, and in 2018, declared that Saudi Arabia lacked legal basis and grounds for restricting his freedoms of expression and opinion, the ABA press release says.

Abu al-Khair earlier also received the Olof Palme Prize, Ludovic-Trarieux International Human Rights Prize, Law Society of Ontario’s Human Rights Award and Right Livelihood Award. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/02/28/saudi-arabia-imprisoned-waleed-abu-al-khair-receives-another-human-rights-award/ and https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/11/14/right-livelihood-award-urges-freedom-for-3-saudi-laureates/]

http://www.abajournal.com/web/article/imprisoned-saudi-lawyer-receives-this-years-international-human-rights-award

Prosecutor Thuli Madonsela in film Whispering Truth to Power

August 12, 2019

An award-winning documentary following Thuli Madonsela’s time as Public Protector has officially been released. The film focuses mostly on Madonsela’s last year in office and is called Whispering Truth to Power.
Behind-the-scenes footage shows Madonsela’s fight for justice for ordinary South Africans. As Public Protector for South Africa, Thuli Madonsela made an impact. The film has won the Special Jury Prize at Hot Docs, a collection of awards at FESPACO, Luxor African Film Festival and Jozi Film Festival.
Madonsela has become a celebrated name for many in South Africa, after she managed to successfully challenge former SA President, Jacob Zuma, on his illegal use of state funds. “In other countries, people don’t know who the ombudsman is,” Madonsela’s son, Wantu explains, “If the government is doing their job properly, then the ombudsman is not this celebrated figure who is fighting the good fight, because there shouldn’t be that fight.” The documentary is filmmaker, Shameela Seedat’s first ever release. The documentary on Madonsela is available to stream at Showmax.
Read more: https://briefly.co.za/35068-award-winning-documentary-thuli-madonsela-officially-out.html

Gladys Mmari is African Human Rights Defender of the Month (July)

August 8, 2019

On 7 August 2019 DefendDefenders’ blog annouinced that Gladys Mmari, Tanzania, was chosen as Human Rights Defender of the Month July 2019:

Gladys Mmari is a driven Tanzanian human rights defender (HRD), and the founder of MAFGE (Male Advocacy For Gender Equality) – a non-governmental organisation (NGO) focused on women empowerment through educating both women and men. “So much of the work that I do is cultural conversation. We have grown up talking about these issues among women, but now, I have to work with men as well – making it more challenging,” Mmari stresses. She fosters the idea that male voices should be heard, and educated, in women’s rights, and that it is important to establish an equitable understanding between the genders, while breaking down gender stereotypes. “We need to stop romanticising the idea of women empowerment, and co-empower one another to achieve the goals of an equal world,” Mmari affirms.

After obtaining a law degree, she worked as a human rights researcher in Tanzania, with a focus on the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights and indigenous rights. Then, she worked for AfricAid, an NGO specialised in cultivating leadership in young women and girls. She recalls a young boy who, following one of her sessions, asked her why he could not participate in the dialogues. He also wanted to boost women and girls’ rights. “It was a turning point for me,” Mmari says. “The time has come to work together and empower each other to revisit the many socio-cultural constraints that have stopped us from equality.” Her organisation MAFGE was hereby born.

She pinpoints numerous challenges faced in her work. “It is challenging to mobilise men to join, to ensure impact to women empowerment.” Furthermore, “most organisations that deal with women empowerment want to fund women organisations. And they do not want to see men in women organisations.”

She also points out the political situation in Tanzania as a great hurdle. Political rallies in the state deviate and misconceive the importance of HRDs, putting them at risk. As she expresses a sincere concern for Tanzanian HRDs, she mentions that the government is currently registering all NGOs under a single entity. “Here there is potential importance of this initiative, as this could be used for something productive such as acting as a more centralised human rights platform allowing more structured approaches, information passage, and funding opportunities. It is a step forward, unless it is a political interest”.

Gladys will continue to fight for women’s rights. “Women are born into unequal societies, and their achievements are unacknowledged and their potential left untapped [..] I can imagine my children and grandchildren living in a world with equal rights, and that they’ll get the opportunities and securities that I missed as a woman. That’s what keeps me going.”

Through MAFGE, she is also running a crowdfunding campaign, to strengthen gender equality in Tanzania.

Human Rights Defender of the Month (July 2019): Gladys Mmari

Former Magsaysay laureate Sandeep Pandey is in two minds about this award

August 5, 2019

Award a protection against autocratic tendencies, but Magsaysay is ‘not infallible” says Sandeep Pandey, a social activist and academic, a Magsasay recipient, who returned his award in 2002.

There could not have been a better choice than Ravish Kumar for this year’s Magsaysay Award. Ravish has demonstrated exemplary courage in questioning the sectarian, communal, jingoistic and irrational politics which has dominated the narrative in this country over the last five years when one by one most of the saner voices were made to disappear, some made compromises or simply surrendered and worst there were others who decided to collaborate with this insidious project of right wing fundamentalism. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/08/03/magsaysay-awards-2019-honor-4-outstanding-asians/]
..
The Magsaysay Award will definitely bring more credibility to his work and hopefully some of the opposition from right wing forces, who are known to troll in an organised manner any sane voice in support of human rights, democracy, justice, communal harmony, peace and friendship, especially with Pakistan, and who’ve targeted Ravish in the past, will subside.
..
However, the aura of Magsaysay is quite exaggerated in India than other countries of Asia, and outside of Asia very few people have heard of it, probably because there are many well known Indians who have won it. Part of the reason for its popularity in India is that it and its winners feature prominently in most General Knowledge books which are used by students preparing for competitive examinations. But the Magsaysay Foundation itself is not infallible, unlike its reputation.

I went to Manila in 2002 to receive the Magsaysay Award as well as participate in a Peace conference organised at the University there in the wake of impending US attack on Iraq. It was a mere coincidence that both events were happening on same dates. There was a demonstration outside the US Embassy the day after the Award ceremony. The chairperson of the Foundation asked me not to participate in the demonstration as it could tarnish its image. ..
I argued that US was a bigger culprit in the game of warfare and I considered it part of my activism to oppose the US policy. Before landing in Manila I had little idea that the Foundation was completely US funded — by the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations. Obviously the Magsaysay Foundation was quite uncomfortable with my stand. The fears of Magsaysay Foundation came true. Even the Hindi Indian media back home covered the demonstration outside US Embassy in Manila highlighting my participation. An editorial in a Manila newspaper asked me to return the $50,000 Award money to the US Embassy before I returned to India if I was the principled man I wanted them to believe. I returned the cheque from the airport to the Magsaysay Foundation before embarking the plane out of Manila.
..
But the Award is prestigious and definitely is a protection against autocratic tendencies of the state and its cronies in India, especially for human rights defenders and upright journalists like Ravish Kumar. We hope that the right-wing fundamentalists will take his viewpoint more seriously and the media fraternity will start considering him as an ideal rather than an exception. He has now emerged as the hope for a free media in India and by extension a democratic polity. This is a victory of progressive forces, sanity and humanity and we must celebrate it. Most of all it is a victory for truth which has become a casualty in the era of post-truth. The post-truth has created only strife and conflicts. If we have to return to the human endeavour of making this world a better place for everybody, there is no option but to go back to recognizing truth as the most important values. In spite of Nathuram Godse having become a hero for a fringe group in this country, the universal ideal continues to be Mahatma Gandhi.

Magsaysay Awards 2019 honor 5 outstanding Asians

August 3, 2019

The Ramon Magsaysay Award, one of Asia’s best known prizes, celebrates transformative leadership. In the past five decades, the award has been bestowed on over three hundred men, women and organizations whose selfless service has offered their societies, Asia, and the world successful solutions to some of the most intractable problems of human development. For more on this regional award, see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/ramon-magsaysay-award-for-community-leadership] The trustees of the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation annually select the awardees. The Award is presented to them in formal ceremonies in Manila, Philippines on August 31st, the birth anniversary of the much-esteemed Philippine President whose ideals inspired the Award’s creation in 1957.

The winners for 2019 are:

Kim, Jong-ki, South Korea

  • In 1995, Kim Jong-ki was a highly successful businessman handling market operations in China for a giant Korean electronics company.  Married, with a son and daughter, he was at the height of his career when tragedy struck.
  • In the year his son died, Jong-ki established the Foundation for Preventing Youth Violence (FPYV), the first organized effort in South Korea to address school violence as a systemic social problem affecting students, families, schools, and the community-at-large.
  • The impact of Jong-ki and FPYV on Korean society has been profound, establishing a nationwide presence and creating collective action on a social problem hitherto neglected.
  • In electing Kim Jong-ki to receive the 2019 Ramon Magsaysay Award, the board of trustees recognizes his quiet courage in transforming private grief into a mission to protect Korea’s youth from the scourge of bullying and violence, his unstinting dedication to the goal of instilling among the young the values of self-esteem, tolerance, and mutual respect, and his effectively mobilising all sectors of the country in a nationwide drive that has transformed both policy and behaviours towards building a gentler, non-violent society.

Kumar, Ravish, India

  • In 1996, he joined New Delhi Television Network (NDTV), one of India’s leading TV networks and worked his way up from being a field reporter. After NDTV launched its 24-hour Hindi-language news channel — NDTV India — targeting the country’s 422 million native speakers of Hindi, he was given his own daily show, “Prime Time.”
  • As an anchor, Ravish is sober, incisive, and well-informed.  He does not dominate his guests but affords them the chance to express themselves.  He does not balk, however, at calling the highest officials to account or criticizing media and the state of public discourse in the country; for this reason, he has been harassed and threatened by rabid partisans of one kind or another.
  • Ravish has been most vocal on insisting that the professional values of sober, balanced, fact-based reporting be upheld in practice.
  • In electing Ravish Kumar to receive the 2019 Ramon Magsaysay Award, the board of trustees recognizes his unfaltering commitment to a professional, ethical journalism of the highest standards; his moral courage in standing up for truth, integrity, and independence; and his principled belief that it is in giving full and respectful voice to the voiceless, in speaking truth bravely yet soberly to power, that journalism fulfills its noblest aims to advance democracy.

Neelapaijit, Angkhana, Thailand

  • In 2006, with the help of non-government organizations and her own family, Angkhana founded Justice for Peace Foundation (JPF), a network of human rights and peace advocates that has done important work in documenting the human rights situation in southern Thailand, thus raising public awareness and putting pressure on government to act on human rights cases, providing legal assistance to victims; and training women on human rights and the peace process.
  • In 2015, Angkhana was named commissioner of the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand,  the only Commission member with grassroots human rights experience.
  • In her soft-spoken and measured tone she asserts: “Most women experience conflict and violence in a different way than men.
  • In electing Angkhana Neelapaijit to receive the 2019 Ramon Magsaysay Award, the board of trustees recognizes her unwavering courage in seeking justice for her husband and many other victims of violence and conflict in southern Thailand; her systematic, unflagging work to reform a flawed and unfair legal system, and the shining proof she is that the humblest ordinary person can achieve national impact in deterring human rights abuses.

Ko Swe Win, Myanmar

https://www.rmaward.asia/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/KSW-Official-2-300x300.png

  • Such a journalist is 41-year-old Ko Swe Win.  Born to a poor family in Yangon, he grew up in politically turbulent times and fell victim to state repression early on.
  • In 2017, he criticized a powerful, ultranationalist Buddhist monk, Ashin Wirathu, for purveying “hate speech” and publicly commending the killer of a Muslim human rights activist.  Wirathu, Swe Win wrote, had desecrated Buddhism and should be punished for endorsing assassination and fomenting hate.
  • Swe Win and Myanmar Now draw strength from the fact that they are making a difference.  With a current readership of 350,000, the news service is highly regarded for the quality, balance, and depth of its reporting on high-impact issues, including land grabbing, child labor, and abuse of domestic workers.
  • In electing Ko Swe Win to receive the 2019 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Emergent Leadership, the board of trustees recognizes his undaunted commitment to practice independent, ethical, and socially engaged journalism in Myanmar; his incorruptible sense of justice and unflinching pursuit of the truth in crucial but under-reported issues; and his resolute insistence that it is in the quality and force of media’s truth-telling that we can convincingly protect human rights in the world. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/09/03/myanmar-time-for-aung-san-suu-kyi-to-return-at-least-some-of-her-many-human-rights-awards/]

The fifth award winner is Mr Cayabyab, 65, who was recognised for “his compositions and performances that have defined and inspired Filipino popular music across generations”.

http://festival.rmaf.org.ph/?page_id=35

More on Neha Dixit, a winner of the 2019 Press Freedom Award

July 22, 2019

(Rajni George)

The Committee to Protect Journalists on 16 July gave one of its International Press Freedom Awards 2019 to Neha Dixit, an Indian freelance reporter, who has covered politics, gender, and social justice in print, TV, and online media for more than a decade. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/07/17/international-press-freedom-awards-2019/]

She began her career at Tehelka magazine and then joined the special investigation team at India Today. In 2019, Dixit spent months investigating and reporting stories that shed a light on important issues in the country, including extrajudicial killings by police. She also reported on the illegal detention of citizens under draconian laws that appeared to be motivated by political interests. In January 2019, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights sent a notice to the Indian government to express its concern about the detentions. In 2018, Dixit reported on the damage to the health of poor Indians who were being used as guinea pigs by pharmaceutical companies in illegal drug trials.

In 2016, she wrote a story for Outlook magazine that accused members of a right-wing nationalist group of trafficking more than 31 girls in Assam state to other parts of India in order to inculcate them with a nationalist ideology. After the story was published, members of the ruling party filed a criminal defamation suit against Dixit and Outlook, accusing both of violating Indian law. CPJ condemned the case, which continues today, and provided Dixit with support for its legal fees. CPJ’s research has found that section 153A of India’s colonial-era penal code, under which the suit was filed, has been used to silence journalists, writers, and academics in India. Dixit was also charged with “inciting communal hatred through writing,” for which she could face a five-year prison term.

After Dixit’s exposé on extrajudicial killings by the police, she said high-ranking police officials threatened her family’s safety if she continued to report on the issue. She is frequently harassed online as a result of her reporting, especially from alleged right-wing extremists. She has been threatened with physical attacks, rape, and death, and her personal information has been exposed online. She told CPJ in May 2019 that she faces up to 300 abusive messages a day.

Dixit’s work has been published in international outlets including The New York Times, Al-Jazeera, Caravan, and The Wire. She has received numerous awards, including the European Commission’s Lorenzo Natali Media Prize in 2011, the Kurt Schork Award in International Journalism in 2014, and the 2016 Chameli Devi Jain Award for Outstanding Woman Journalist.

https://cpj.org/awards/2019/neha-dixit-india.php

More on Maxence Melo, a winner of the 2019 Press Freedom Award

July 22, 2019

Digital activist Maxence Melo. (Daniel Hayduk, AFP, File)

Digital activist Maxence Melo. (Daniel Hayduk, AFP, File)
A Tanzanian journalist awarded the International Press Freedom Award on 16 July [see https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/07/17/international-press-freedom-awards-2019/] said he hoped the recognition will “lift the corner of the veil” on the plight of reporters in his homeland reported News24 on 17 July 2019. Maxence Melo, a blogger whose critical writings of President John Magufuli have landed him in hot water.
The CPJ said the co-founder of the Jamii Forums blog in 2006, was a “champion of online freedom of expression” who never flinched, even in the face of Tanzania’s strict internet laws. Melo has been in court more than 80 times, the CPJ said, and is still facing prosecution for refusing to disclose his sources in a story criticising Tanzanian authorities. His work focuses on corruption, tax evasion and human rights violations.

Melo said he hoped the award would turn the spotlight on the exceptional difficulties faced by journalists in Tanzania. “This prize lifts a corner of the veil on what is happening in our country,” said Melo, who is barred from leaving Tanzania’s financial capital and biggest city, Dar es Salaam. “Never before in our country has a government violated press freedom so much.

It is of course not good news that my country is making the headlines because of its laws and practices that violate freedoms of the press and expression,” Melo said. “With the announcement of this award, I think the international community will take a greater interest in what is happening in Tanzania, in the difficult environment in which the media and human rights defenders work in Tanzania.” Melo, a father of three, said he had received death threats. “It is obvious that I am afraid, afraid for my personal safety, but also for the safety of my family,” he said.

In 2015, the East African country was 75th in the world in RSF’s press freedom rankings. By 2019, it had slid to 118th.

https://www.news24.com/Africa/News/tanzanian-press-champion-hopes-prize-lifts-veil-on-abuses-20190717

CPJ’s 2019 Gwen Ifill Press Freedom Award to Pakistani journalist Zaffar Abbas

July 19, 2019

The Committee to Protect Journalists’ (CPJ) 2019 Gwen Ifill Press Freedom Award recognizing extraordinary and sustained achievement in the cause of press freedom will be presented to Zaffar Abbas, editor of Pakistan’s daily newspaper Dawn. Abbas, who has decades of experience as a reporter in Pakistan, has led Dawn since 2010. Under his leadership, Dawn and its reporters frequently have come under government pressure. This is the second Ifill award which replaces the Burton Benjamin Memorial Award. For more on this and other awards for journalists: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/gwen-ifill-press-freedom-award

“Zaffar Abbas is the embodiment of journalistic courage, which is why the board is so pleased to honor him with the Gwen Ifill Press Freedom Award,” said Kathleen Carroll, chair of the CPJ board. “Every day he fights to deliver facts to Dawn’s readers in the face of pressure, obstacles, and blockades from the institutions in Pakistan that would much prefer to go about their business without scrutiny from the press or the public.

https://cpj.org/2019/07/cpj-announces-2019-international-press-freedom-awa.php

International Press Freedom Awards 2019

July 17, 2019

On 16 July 2019, the Committee to Protect Journalists announced that journalists from Brazil, India, Nicaragua, and Tanzania will receive the 2019 International Press Freedom Awards amid the erosion of press freedom in democracies around the globe. The journalists have faced online harassment, legal and physical threats, and imprisonment in their pursuit of the news

CPJ’s 2019 awardees are:

Patrícia Campos Mello, a reporter and columnist at Brazil’s daily Folha de S. Paulo. During the Brazilian presidential election campaign in 2018, Campos Mello was attacked online and doxxed in response to her coverage of supporters of then presidential-candidate Jair Bolsonaro allegedly sponsoring bulk messaging in WhatsApp.

Neha Dixit, a freelance investigative journalist in India who covers human rights. She has faced legal and physical threats, as well as online harassment, after reporting on alleged wrongdoing by right-wing nationalist groups and police.

Lucía Pineda Ubau, news director, and Miguel Mora, founder and editor, of Nicaraguan broadcaster 100% Noticias. The pair was imprisoned in December 2018 in relation to their coverage of political unrest. They were freed on June 11 after six months behind bars, under surveillance and in isolation most of the time.

Maxence Melo Mubyazi, champion of online freedom of expression in Tanzania, who co-founded and is the managing director of Jamii Forums, an online discussion site and source of breaking news. Melo has been charged under the country’s restrictive CyberCrimes Act and, in 2017, appeared in court 81 times.

For more on the International Press Freedom Awards and other media awards, see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/international-press-freedom-awards-cpj

All of the winners will be honored at CPJ’s annual awards and benefit dinner, which will be chaired by Laurene Powell Jobs and Peter Lattman of the Emerson Collective. The event will be held at the Grand Hyatt New York in New York City on November 21, 2019.