Every year journalists, bloggers and people who wish to share the truth despite of adverse political or social situation, loose their health and lives, are forced to go into hiding or in the best case scenario – exhale. As freedom of speech is the most important value for them, very often they stand against ruling establishments no matter the costs. Passion for Freedom as every year recognises work and courage of these independent journalists. Sadly enough, some of these nominations are being granted posthumously.
Recognised Journalists 2015
1. Mona Eltahawy, Egypt, USA
2. Raif Badawi, Saudi Arabia
3. Masoumeh Alinejad, Iran/UK
4. Washiqur Rahman, Bangladesh
5. Avijit Roy, Bangladesh
6. Zvi Yehezkeli, Israeli
Mona Eltahawy, Egypt, USA
Mona Eltahawy is a freelance Egyptian-American journalist and commentator based in New York City. She has written essays and op-eds for publications worldwide on Egypt and the Islamic world, including women’s issues and Muslim political and social affairs. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, The New York Times, Christian Science Monitor, and The Miami Herald among others. On November 24, 2011, she was arrested in Cairo while covering renewed protests in Tahrir Square. Eltahawy speaks out on behalf of women’s rights in the Arab world, including attacking female genital mutilation. In a May 2012 article in Foreign Policy, she wrote, “Name me an Arab country, and I’ll recite a litany of abuses [of women] fuelled by a toxic mix of culture and religion that few seem willing or able to disentangle lest they blaspheme or offend.” In a 2011 interview she described herself as “a secular, radical feminist Muslim”. Eltahawy’s first book “Headscarves and Hymens” was published in May 2015. The book is based on a controversial piece touching misogyny in Arab society which she wrote for Foreign Policy in 2012, entitled “Why Do They Hate Us”.
Raif Badawi, Saudi Arabia
Raif Badawi is a Saudi Arabian writer and activist and the creator of the website Free Saudi Liberals. Human Rights Watch stated that Badawi’s website had hosted material criticising “senior religious figures”. Badawi had also suggested that Imam Muhammad ibn Saud Islamic University had become “a den for terrorists.” He was arrested in 2012 on a charge of insulting Islam through electronic channels and brought to court on several charges including apostasy. He was convicted of several charges and sentenced to 1000 lashes and ten years in prison plus a fine in 2014. Following Badawi’s 2012 arrest, Amnesty International designated him a prisoner of conscience, “detained solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression”. Badawi’s lawyer, Waleed Abulkhair, has been jailed after setting up Monitor of Human Rights in Saudi Arabia, a Saudi human rights organisation. According to Human Rights Watch in its review of Saudi Arabia’s membership in the United Nations Human Rights Council, “Over the last year Saudi authorities have harassed, investigated, prosecuted, and jailed prominent peaceful dissidents and human rights activists on vague charges based solely on their peaceful practice of basic rights, particularly the right to free expression …. Raif Badawi is just one of many.”
Masoumeh Alinejad, Iran/UK
Masoumeh Alinejad-Ghomi is an Iranian journalist and writer well known for her criticism of Iranian authorities. She now lives in exile in the United Kingdom.
In 2008 she wrote a highly controversial article in Etemad Melli daily, called ‘Song of the Dolphins’ where she compared Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s behaviour to the behaviour of dolphin trainers. In 2014, Alinejad launched My Stealthy Freedom (also known as Stealthy Freedoms of Iranian Women), a Facebook page that invites Iranian women to post pictures of themselves without a hijab as women who appear in public without a hijab in Iran risk being arrested. In 2015, the Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy gave her its women’s rights award for “giving a voice to the voiceless and stirring the conscience of humanity to support the struggle of Iranian women for basic human rights, freedom and equality.” She has written a book in Persian “I am Free” which deals with women’s issues in Iran. It was published in Germany because of the banning by the Islamic Culture and Guidance Ministry in Iran.
Washiqur Rahman, Bangladesh
On 30 March 2015, blogger Washiqur Rahman was killed in an attack in Dhaka. The police arrested two suspects near the scene and recovered meat cleavers from them. The suspects said they killed Rahman due to his anti-Islamic articles. The arrested killers informed the police that they are also members of the Ansarullah Bangla Team and killed the blogger after 15 days of training. Imran H Sarker, a leader in the 2013 Shahbag protests and the head of an activist blogger network, told reporters that Washiqur Rahman was not killed because of widespread exposure, but “He was targeted because open-minded and progressive bloggers are being targeted in general. They are killing those who are easy to access, when they get the opportunity… The main attempt is to create fear among bloggers.” The Committee to Protect Journalists issued a press release stating that Rahman’s death occurred in a climate of “official harassment of journalists in Bangladesh”.
Avijit Roy, Bangladesh
Avijit Roy was a Bangladeshi American online activist, writer, blogger. He was the founder of the Bangladeshi Mukto-Mona (freethinkers) website, an Internet community for freethinkers, rationalists, skeptics, atheists, and humanists of mainly Bengali and other South Asian descent, which was one of the nominees of The Bobs-Best of Online Activism award. Roy on the founding mission of Mukto-Mona: “Our aim is to build a society which will not be bound by the dictates of arbitrary authority, comfortable superstition, stifling tradition, or suffocating orthodoxy but would rather be based on reason, compassion, humanity, equality and science.” Roy was a prominent advocate of free expression in Bangladesh, coordinating international protests against government censorship and imprisonment of bloggers. He described his writing as “taboo” in Bangladesh and received death threats from fundamentalist bloggers for his political articles. He was hacked to death by unknown assailants in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on 26 February 2015.
Zvi Yehezkeli, Israeli
Zvi is an Arab affairs correspondent and head of the Arab desk at Israeli News 10, the news division of Israel 10. Yehezkeli joined Israel’s Army Radio as the Gaza and West Bank reporter and occasionally contributed to the Israeli Channel 1’s “Yoman” with various reports. In 2002, he joined News 10 as the head of Desk for Arab Affairs. In 2010, he announced that President Mahmoud Abbas had a standing invitation to appear on Channel 10 to respond to allegations that several of his senior aides have embezzled international aid transferred to the Palestinian Authority. In 2012, Allah Islam, a documentary series Yehezkeli created with David Deri, debuted on Channel 10.