Trust grantees win Index on Censorship’s Freedom of Expression Awards 2020

Veysel Ok, Co-Director and media freedoms lawyer at Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA), and Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, Director of Advocacy at Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD), have been jointly awarded Index on Censorship’s 2020 Freedom of Expression prize, under the Award’s Campaigning category. have won the Freedom of Expression Award under the Journalism category.

Index on Censorship’s Freedom of Expression Awards celebrate those who have had significant impact fighting censorship anywhere in the world. The London-based international freedom of speech organisation was due to host the award ceremony in London on 1 April, instead announcing the winners on their Twitter account on 16 April due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ok, a Kurdish lawyer providing pro-bono legal support to journalists, activists and academics who have been subjected to intimidation, surveillance, smear campaigns and harassment, has been recognised for his role in defending journalists prosecuted in Turkey for their work. According to Index on Censorship, “Ok’s work has been instrumental in the release of several unlawfully detained journalists and writers and he is one of the first to challenge the Turkish laws of accreditation which determine whether a journalist meets official requirements to do their job.”

Alwadaei, imprisoned and forced to flee Bahrain in 2012 for exile in London following his participation in anti-government protests, has been recognised for his advocacy work at BIRD. His research and campaigning with BIRD have become vital resources for international media and NGOs such as Amnesty International, and recent successes include the discovery that institutions supported by UK taxpayers have been implicated in torture and other human rights abuses. Despite being stripped of his citizenship and having family members targeted in Bahrain, Alwadaei remains a prominent critic of the Bahraini government.

OKO.Press, one of the first free investigative journalism and fact-checking websites in Poland, was recognised as an organisation for their pioneering work investigating statements made by politicians, monitoring public spending, and fighting for access to public information. This work has paved the way for other news sources to follow suit, contributing to a safer and stronger public sphere, fighting for immunity from government propaganda.

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