Imprisoned blogger Raif Badawi from Saudi Arabia is to receive Deutsche Welle's first Freedom of Speech Award. DW is awarding the prize as part of its international online competition The Bobs – Best of Online Activism.
"The Deutsche Welle Executive Board decided unanimously in favor of Raif Badawi," says DW Director General Peter Limbourg. "He stands, in an exemplary way, for the brave and fearless commitment to the human right of freedom of expression. Our award sends a signal and contributes to bringing his fate into the public spotlight. We hope this will increase pressure on those responsible in Saudi Arabia to release Badawi."
The 31-year-old blogger Raif Badawi was sentenced by Saudi authorities in May 2014 to 1,000 lashes, 10 years in prison and a major fine. The first 50 lashes were administered on January 9.
Badawi's wife, Ensaf Haidar, tells Deutsche Welle from Canada: "I am thrilled! The Deutsche Welle Freedom of Speech Award sends a clear message to the Saudi regime. It is a disgrace that Raif is still sitting in prison - especially at a time when Saudi Arabia fights against the 'Islamic State' group and its disregard for human rights. I am extremely thankful to Deutsche Welle for its support."
Prize ceremony at the Global Media Forum
As part of the 11th annual competition The Bobs – Best of Online Activism, Deutsche Welle commends outstanding online activists and projects. This year, DW established the Freedom of Speech Award to honor a person or initiative that promotes freedom of expression in the digital world in an exceptional way.
The winner of the Freedom of Speech Award as well as the winners of The Bobs three jury categories will be recognized on June 23 at the Deutsche Welle Global Media Forumin Bonn, Germany.
Fearless for freedom of expression
Raif Badawi has fought for freedom of expression in his country for years. The website he created, Free Saudi Liberals, addresses political and societal grievances in Saudi Arabia. He published, for example, a sarcastic article about the religious police and named a major university in his country a den of terrorists. He also wrote about Valentine's Day, which is also forbidden in Saudi Arabia. In June 2012, he was again arrested and accused of insulting Islam, religious leaders and politicians. His wife, Ensaf Haidar, fled Saudi Arabia with their three children in 2013 and found political asylum in Canada.