19 January 2018 – The 2018 Oxfam Novib/PEN International Awards for Freedom of Expression has been awarded to Ethiopian journalist Eskinder Nega and Venezuelan journalist Milagros Socorro in recognition of their courage in carrying out their free expression work, despite the personal risk they faced.
Eskinder Nega, a prominent blogger and journalist, is currently serving an 18-year prison sentence on terrorism-related charges. He was arrested in September 2011 after publishing a column that questioned the Ethiopian government’s claim that a number of journalists it had detained were suspected terrorists; he also criticised the arrest of well-known Ethiopian actor and government critic Debebe Eshetu.
Attending the ceremony to receive her award, Milagros Socorro is an award-winning journalist, who in 2016 was forced to flee her native Venezuela due to severe threats she received in connection to her journalism.
PEN International president, Jennifer Clement, introduced the keynote speaker, Mohsin Hamid and the winners of the award:
‘Today, we celebrate the courage of writers who have pursued this ideal, this love of writing, this faith in words as a tool to inform, to be a doorway to new and unexpected worlds, to challenge tyrannies and to seek justice. The recipients of tonight’s award are only too familiar with how threatening words can be to those who seek to divide us. Eskinder Nega is serving an 18-year prison sentence for his free expression work as we speak and Milagros Socorro has faced endless threats for hers. Through words and dialogue we can build bridges that can begin to close the deepest and farthest of divides.’
Read the full speech here.
Farah Karimi, the CEO of Oxfam Novib said ‘We are honoring two courageous people tonight, who despite threats continue their work…People like Socorro and Nega stand up for freedoms that are increasingly under threat all over the world. We, as an international organisation, are increasingly feeling the heat of repression and intimidation in countries where we work. That is why Socorro and Nega deserve deep respect and can inspire us not to give way to intimidation.’
Delivering her acceptance speech, Milagros Sacorro said:
‘I am not here to ask for help, neither for myself, nor for my beloved and tortured country. I came to The Hague to help you. Yes, I came here to remind you that liberties are not islands that float in isolation from one another. They are all linked together and anchored in the body of the society whose blood and vitality they share.’
Read the full speech here.
Note to Editors
PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee, the PEN Emergency Fund and Oxfam Novib each year give the Oxfam Novib/PEN International Free Expression Award to writers who continue to work for freedom of expression in the face of persecution. The award is given in recognitions of writers’ significant contribution to freedom of expression around the world and as a distinctions to writers and journalists committed to free speech despite the danger to their own lives.
For more information please contact Sahar Halaimzai: Sahar.email@example.com | 0044 7514 139606 | Twitter: @pen_int