Free Press defenders receive awards at the Nobel Institute in Oslo

On June 15 journalists from Russia, Belarus, Azerbaijan, and Ukraine received awards for their constructive and devoted work for the free press in Russia, Azerbaijan, Ukraine and Belarus. The “Free Press of Eastern Europe” prize was also given to a newspaper from Dagestan and a news portal in Armenia for the work they do despite the pressure, persecution and censorship.

The Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs Jonas Gahr Støre delivered a keynote adress at the Awards Ceremony underling the importance of a free press in a democratic society. One of the laureates, journalist Maryna Koktysh of the Belarusian newspaper “Narodnaya Volya,” made a speech on behalf of the winners, illustrating to the audience what working under dictatorship means in practice. 

Human Rights House Foundation and the Norwegian Helsinki Committee have nominated 3 of the award winners; Zamin Haji, a journalist from Azerbaijan, a news portal “A1 +” from Armenia and the weekly newspaper “Chernovik” issued in the Republic of Dagestan of Russia in the North Caucasus. In addition Natalja Ligachova from Ukraine and Natalya Ivanishina from Russia where selected as prize winners and received 10 000 euro each.

Maryna Koktysh:”Non-state editions on the verge of closure” The judges emphasize that Maryna Koktysh’s (left) strength lies in conducting interviews where “she carries on conversations about social policy and personal topics with everyone from critics of the regime to government representatives.” The Belarusian journalist, deputy editor-in-chief of the newspaper “Narodnaya Volya”(“People’s Will”)  covered the course of presidential elections in December 2010 and boldly criticized the undermining of democratic and legal principles.

“Certainly, in our current difficult situation with the media, when independent newspapers are on the verge of closing (including “Narodnaya Volya”, by the way), the prize is a great pleasure. This is the sign of attention and support from our European colleagues,” – said Koktysh, commenting on her award.

The Gerd Bucerius Prize, named after the famous German lawyer, journalist and publisher, was founded in 1999 by the Fritt Ord Foundation (Oslo), and ZEIT-Stiftung Ebelin und Gerd Bucerius (Hamburg) and is intended to protect and support independent media in Eastern Europe.

Prizes are awarded in an effort to strengthen the independent role of journalists and the media, despite reprisals and financial difficulties. Award winners can be both media and individual journalists from Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia, Russia and South Caucasus, who support a free press, free speech and liberal civil society. From each country every year the jury selects one or several laureates.

In previous years, the Zeit Prize was awarded to a number of the Belarusian media : “Borisovskiye novosti” (“Borisov News”), “Novy Chas” (“New Era”), “Hazeta Slonimskaya” (“The Slonim Newspaper”) ,”Yezhednevnik” (“The Datebook”), news agency BelaPAN, “Belaruskaya delovaya gazeta” (“Belarusian Business Newspaper”), “Salidarnasc” (“Solidarity”), “Belorusskiy rynok” (“Belarusian Market”), “Narodnaya Volya” (“People’s Will”), “Svobodnye novosti” (“Free News”),”Nasha Niva” (“Our field”),”Brestskiy kuryer” (“The Brest Courier”), “Vitebskiy kuryer-M” (” Vitebsk Courier-M”) , “Intex-press”, “CDmag”, Sviatlana Kalinkina, Mikola Markevich, Asya Tratsyuk.

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