By: Murtaza Ali Shah
LONDON: World renowned journalist and author Hamid Mir has been shortlisted for the 2016 Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Awards for his commendable fight for media freedom and civil liberties of Pakistani citizens from all persuasions.
Index on Censorship, a UK-based non-profit organisation that campaigns against censorship worldwide and promotes work of censored writers, told this scribe that Hamid Mir had been shortlisted in the awards’ list because of his courage and his place amongst the global heroes battling censorship and fighting for freedom of expression.
The respected organisation said in the citation that Hamid Mir’s 30-year-career has been “punctuated by threats, physical assaults, abductions and assassination attempts” but he has remained steadfast in his beliefs against incredible obstacles.
Drawn from more than 400 crowd-sourced nominations, the Index awards shortlist celebrates artists, writers, journalists and campaigners tackling censorship and fighting for freedom of expression against incredible obstacles.
Many of the 20 shortlisted nominees are regularly targeted by authorities or by criminal and extremist groups for their work: some face regular death threats, others criminal prosecution.
Jodie Ginsberg, CEO of Index, said about Hamid Mir: "It is shocking that any journalist has to endure separation from his family, to be shot at and be confined to a life under armed guard simply for reporting the news that people should know. With his dogged determination to bring the truth to light at whatever cost, Hamid Mir is a champion against censorship and an example to us all."
He said that environment for media workers in Pakistan, India and Bangladesh is alarming, with the situation deteriorating including the use of blasphemy to censor political criticism.
“As with neighbouring Afghanistan, violent threats and attacks have far too frequently led to the arrest of journalists, bloggers and rights activists. Horrifying events like the explosion at TOLO TV, the intimidation of leading journalists like Hamid Mir and the continued assassination of Bangladeshi bloggers are censorship pure and simple – an aberration of basic human rights and stand in the way of any claims to true democracy in the region.”
Judges for this year’s awards are Nobel Prize-winning author Wole Soyinka, pianist James Rhodes, tech entrepreneur Bindi Karia, Colombian journalist Maria Teresa Ronderos, human rights lawyer Kirsty Brimelow QC, and Bahraini campaigner Nabeel Rajab.
“Censorship is not something that happens ‘somewhere else’,” said Jodie Ginsberg. “It occurs on a daily basis in every country, in every part of the world. The shortlist honours those who are among the bravest and most creative in tackling such threats.”
Awards are offered in four categories: journalism; arts; campaigning; digital activism and winners will be announced at a gala ceremony in London in April.