Posts Tagged ‘Freedom to Write Award’

Azerbaijan: Khadija Ismayilova remains in jail but Council of Europe takes exceptional step

December 18, 2015

While there has been a small let up in the incarceration of human rights defenders in Azerbaijan [see e.g. https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/leyla-yunus/], it remains the worst place in Europe for human rights defenders. On 25 November the appeal lodged by investigative journalist and human rights defender Khadija Ismayilova was dismissed. She has to remain in jail for 7.5 years!

[Ms. Ismayilova was arrested on December 5, 2014 on charges of “inciting” her ex-partner “to commit suicide”. Although in April 2015 the alleged victim retreated his accusations, claiming his testimony was given under pressure, blackmail and torture, the prosecution did not take it into account and maintained the charges. In February 2015, Ms. Ismayilova was further accused of embezzlement, illegal entrepreneurship, tax evasion and abuse of office. During the hearings in first instance, no evidence of these accusations was presented.On September 1, 2015, the Baku Court of Grave Crimes had sentenced Ms. Khadija Ismayilova to 7,5 years imprisonment on charges of “embezzlement”, “illegal entrepreneurship”, “tax evasion”, and “abuse of office].

As an independent reporter and journalist of the Azerbaijani radio Azadliq (“Radio Freedom”) she has shown great courage (see: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/12/11/khadija-ismayilova-azerbaijan-is-not-deterred/), and received several international prizes, such as the 2015 Alison Des Forges Award for Extraordinary Activism (HRW), the 2015 Freedom to Write Award, the 2012 Fritt Ord/Zeit Press Prize, and the 2012 Courage of Journalism Award by the Washington-based International Women’s Media Foundation.  Read the rest of this entry »

Charlie Hebdo and PEN: free speech deserves protection, not necessarily an award

May 6, 2015

Last night two members of Charlie Hebdo, the French satirical magazine, received – under thundering applause –  the “James C. Goodale Freedom of Expression Courage Award” from American PEN. It followed a raging 10-day debate over free speech, blasphemy and Islamophobia in the social media and op-ed pages worldwide. It started when six prominent writers, including Peter Carey, Michael Ondaatje and Francine Prose, pulled out from the gala dinner to protest what they saw as Charlie Hebdo’s racist and Islamophobic content.  Some 200 PEN members signed a letter of protest saying that the award crossed a line between “staunchly supporting expression that violates the acceptable, and enthusiastically rewarding such expression.” [“To the section of the French population that is already marginalized, embattled, and victimized,” they wrote, “Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons of the Prophet must be seen as being intended to cause further humiliation and suffering.”]

Others, such as Salman Rushdie,vigorously defended Charlie Hebdo and the prize. PEN quickly found new table hosts, including the cartoonist Art Spiegelman, and the writers Azar Nafisi and Neil Gaiman.

Even The Economist on 5 May stepped into the debate with a historical analysis of Charlie Hebdo [“Since it was founded in 1970, with its roots firmly on the political left, Charlie Hebdohas prided itself on a defiant spirit of irreverent provocation. This fits a long tradition of savage French satire, dating back to the bawdy anti-royalist pre-revolutionary cartoons mocking Marie-Antoinette and King Louis XVI. Many of Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons are tasteless, silly and offensive. So silly, in fact, that its circulation had dropped to just 45,000 or so before the terrorist attacks. Most of its targets are political. It gave Nicolas Sarkozy, a former centre-right president, a particularly hard time. These days, Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right National Front, is a favourite figure of ridicule. Indeed, an analysis by Le Monde newspaper shows that, between 2005 and 2015, 336 of their 523 covers were political, and only 38 religious. Of the latter, 21 concerned Christianity, including an image of a toothy Virgin Mary, her legs apart, giving birth to baby Jesus. Just seven portrayed only Islam.”]

But I think that is not really the issue here. We all (well 99%) agree with the statement of Charlie Hebdo editor Gérard Biard: Being shocked is part of democratic debate ..Being shot is not. SoI stand by my ‘Je suis Charlie’ position [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/01/08/charlie-hebdo-attack-intolerance-extreme/], but this does not mean that the magazine should get an award. Many (dead) journalists do not get awards. Awards normally have a bit of ‘role model’ function (in addition to recognizing courage and giving support). The lone protester in front of the building where the ceremony took place held a handwritten sign that in my view captures the issue well: “Free speech does not deserve death / Abusive speech does not deserve an award.”

It is pity that the controversy overshadowed the PEN’s Freedom to Write Award 2015, given to the Azerbaijani journalist Khadija Ismayilova, who has been imprisoned since early December after writing about corruption allegations against the family of Azerbaijan’s president, Ilham Aliyev. [http://www.brandsaviors.com/thedigest/award/freedom-write-award]

among the many sources:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/06/nyregion/after-protests-charlie-hebdo-members-receive-standing-ovation-at-pen-gala.html?_r=0

The Economist explains: The new Charlie Hebdo controversy | The Economist.

http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/paris-magazine-attack/award-french-magazine-charlie-hebdo-divides-prominent-writers-n353901