Free Media Award: Crimea and Azerbaijan focus among Fritt Ord winners

Independent media outlet Meydan TV and journalist Anton Naumlyuk won the Fritt Ord Foundation’s Free Media Awards for their contribution to independent information and efforts to shed light on human rights violations in Azerbaijan and Crimea.

The winners, announced on World Press Freedom Day 2017, also included Armenian journalist and lawyer Zaruhi Mejlumyan, and Russian caricature artist Sergei Jolkin. 

“The media constitute the fourth estate, an important corrective for every kind of abuse of power. This year, we have chosen four media and journalists who risk a great deal as they forge their own incorruptible paths” commented Knut Olav Åmås, executive director of the Fritt Ord Foundation in the announcement of the winners.

“We congratulate all of the prize laureates on the much-deserved awards. HRHF has worked closely with Emin Milli and Meydan TV for many years and wholeheartedly support the outstanding work that they do in providing a vital source of independent news on Azerbaijan, reaching up to 25% of the country’s internet users on a regular basis.” said Maria Dahle, the Director of Human Rights House Foundation. 

Russian journalist Anton Naumlyuk’s work has been critical in highlighting the human rights situation in annexed Crimea. He has been one of the only Russian journalists systematically reporting on the Russian judicial system’s cases against Crimean citizens, especially against Ukrainian political prisoners and Crimean Tatars. 

“The work of Russian journalist, Anton Naumlyuk, to uncover the violation of human rights of the people living in Crimea after the annexation has been vital, and recognising his work through this award is important on a broad scale, and brings needed attention to the situation in Crimea.” continued Maria Dahle. 

In addition to writing articles and reports on legal injustice and human rights violations in Crimea and Russia, Naumlyuk is also a photographer. He has documented court hearings and trials against Crimean Tatars and Ukrainians, and taken more personal photos of their families. Despite the risks, he has openly condemned the court hearings as artificial, the results of which are known in advance. The photos have been exhibited with the title “Hybrid Deportation” in Kyiv, Ankara and Prague, and most recently in Brussels during the One World film festival

The announcement of this award comes days after Azerbaijan governmental calls for the complete blocking of Meydan TV’s website along with several other critical websites. 

Meydan TV is an Azerbaijani digital media platform founded in exile in Berlin by journalist and former political prisoner Emin Milli. Since 2013, Meydan TV has been a leading independent media outlet in Azerbaijan and seeks to provide high-quality journalism, analysis, breaking news, and diverse commentary for and about Azerbaijan, despite myriad retaliations against its staff. 

Retaliation against Meydan TV has included a criminal case opened in 2016 by the Azerbaijan Prosecutor General’s Office against the platform, in which several journalists, some of whom remain in the country, have been targeted. Staff based abroad have also been subject to pressure through threats against their families in Azerbaijan, which have included detentions and job dismissals.  

Prior living in exile in Germany, Meydan TV Director Emin Milli(pictured above) was persecuted in Azerbaijan over the last decade while working as a blogger. He was arrested on accusations viewed by civil society as political and linked to his exercise of freedom of expression and journalistic work in 2009. He spent over a year in prison before being released following an extensive campaign by his family, civil society, and fellow bloggers at home and abroad. 

The prize laureates will be awarded during the Free Media Awards conference which will be held from 8 to 11 October in Kyiv, Ukraine. The prize amounts to EUR 15,000 for each of the prize laureates.

About the Award:

The Fritt Ord Foundation (the Freedom of Expression Foundation), Oslo, and the ZEIT Foundation honour independent journalists and media in Azerbaijan, Armenia and Russia. Read more about the awards here.

More on Crimea:

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