Intrusions into people’s private spheres, censorship, self-censorship in fear of retaliation, threats to people’s physical integrity and security,… Despite the efforts of many, the right to freely express oneself – also through artistic expression – is under growing pressure. An alarming fact considering that freedom of expression is a pillar for democratic development worldwide.
It is therefore with interest that we take note of the Sakharov Prize, awarded by European Parliament on 29 October 2015 to Saudi Arabian blogger Raif Badawi.
Badawi is the founder and manager of the Saudi Liberals and the Free Saudi Liberal Network. Through his work on online forums, Badawi put forward discussions of religion and politics and advocated for freedom of thought and expression. He wrote on defence of a more open society, for the rights of woman, minorities and impoverished populations in Saudi Arabia.
Badawi was first detained in 2008 and interrogated on suspicion of apostasy. Four years later he was arrested and indicted on several charges, being convicted and sentenced to seven years in prison and 600 lashes, he was then re-sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in prison plus a fine.
Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament, urged the king of Saudi Arabia to free Badawi, so he can accept the prize in person, scheduled to be awarded in November or December 2015 in Strasbourg.
The two other finalists this year were the Venezuelan opposition movement Mesa de la Unidad Democrática and Boris Nemtsov, Russian opposition leader the assassinated in February 2015.
For more information vist www.europarl.europa.eu/sakharovprize