The other winners are a Russian LGBT activist and a Turkish digital research organisation.
New Delhi: Index on Censorship, a group that campaigns for free expression globally, announced the 2017 winners of its freedom of expression awards in London on Wednesday. The four winners were drawn from more than 400 nominations.
Chinese political cartoonist Rebel Pepper (Wang Liming) was the winner in the Arts category. Liming lives in exile in Japan, after he faced repeated persecution for his satirical drawing on Chinese President Xi Jinping. He has been drawing since 2009 and moved to Japan in 2014. Liming has said that the Chinese state has repeatedly tried to cut him off from his viewers by deleting his social media accounts, adding that his conversations with friends and relatives are surveilled.
Russian LGBT rights activist Ildar Dadin was awarded in the Campaigning category. Dadin was the first Russian to be convicted under the much-criticised public assembly law, and remains the only conviction under the law till date. Dadin was charged under the law after staging a number of one-man pickets with a billboard in 2014. He was arrested and has alleged that he was tortured in custody. He was released in February 2017 after his conviction was quashed.
In the Digital Collective category, Turkish digital research organisation Turkey Blocks was rewarded for their work in raising awareness on internet shutdowns. Turkey Blocks has broken the news on 14 mass censorship incidents.
The Maldives Independent and its former editor Zaheena Rasheed won the award in the Journalism category. The publication was created in exile in 2004 and moved back to the Maldives in 2005 after the pro-democracy movement began to grow. “In September 2016, following the release of an Al Jazeera documentary exposing government corruption that contained interviews with Rasheed, the newspaper’s offices were attacked with a machete and later raided by the police. Rasheed believes whoever left a machete stuck to the door of her office is connected with the disappearance of one of her colleagues in 2014, an abduction she said has not been properly investigated by police,” the award announcement says.
“These winners are free speech heroes who deserve global recognition,” said Index on Censorship CEO Jodie Ginsberg. “They, like all of those nominated, face huge personal and political hurdles in their fight so that others can express themselves freely.” The winners were given cartoons drawn by Indian political cartoonist Aseem Trivedi. The winners are also now part of a year-long fellowship programme with Index on Censorship aimed at taking their work to a wider audience. This is the 17th year of the freedom of expression awards.