15 March 2007

Awards for defenders of free speech

The BBC reports that five "defenders of free speech" have been honoured at a ceremony in London:

The annual Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Awards salute people who have contributed to the defence of freedom of expression. ..They are given to those who use film, the law, books, journalism, campaigning or whistleblowing to achieve this.

The whistleblower award went to Chen Guangcheng, a self-taught lawyer in the Shandong province of China. Known as the "barefoot lawyer", he is a blind activist who publicised reports of forced abortions, as late as eight months pregnant, and sterilisations in the city of Linyi to enforce China's one-child policy.
Mr Chen was sentenced in August 2006 to over four years in prison for property damage and organising a crowd to disturb traffic.

The 2007 award for journalism went to 22-year old blogger Abdel Kareem Soliman, who wrote under the name Kareem Amer.He was recently sentenced to four years in prison after using his web log to criticise the country's top Islamic institution, al-Azhar university, and President Hosni Mubarak, whom he called a dictator.

Other awards went to an assassinated Lebanese journalist, an Aids activist and an Israeli film maker.

Reading their stories, and those of others such as Morgan Tsvangirai , puts the vicissitudes of my life into perspective.

For more about Chen Guangcheng see here. It's interesting disturbing to note, among other things, how China discriminates against blind people's attempts to educate themselves.

For more about Kareem Amer see here.

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