17 April 2020 – Yesterday, BIRD Director of Advocacy Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei was awarded an Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Award for his tireless campaigning for human rights in Bahrain. The prestigious award comprises a year-long fellowship with Index to help winners “maximise their impact, broaden their support and ensure they continue to excel at fighting censorship and free expression threats on the ground.”
The Freedom of Expression Awards have been held annually since 2000 to celebrate individuals and groups who have had a significant impact fighting censorship around the world, with previous winners including Nobel Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai. Due to the threat posed by coronavirus, the event organisers took the unprecedented decision of hosting this year’s event online.
And the winners of this year's campaigning award #IndexAwards20 is split between two amazing people, they are @SAlwadaei & @shemmoshemmo WATCH THEIR SPEECHES HERE https://t.co/1z56q3nYLY and https://t.co/f4X2INyICo pic.twitter.com/Cd9bOgu7UU
— Index on Censorship (@IndexCensorship) April 16, 2020
Sayed used his acceptance speech to pay tribute to those who remain imprisoned in Bahrain for expressing their right to free expression. In particular, Sayed raised the plight of his “dear friend,” Bahraini human rights defender Nabeel Rajab, who won the 2012 Index on Censorship Award and is currently serving a 7-year sentence for criticising Bahrain’s government on Twitter. Nabeel was recognised as one of 2020’s “Free Speech Heroes” by the Award’s seat sponsors.
Sayed will share the prize with fellow winner Veysel Ok, a Turkish free speech lawyer and co-founder and co-director of the Tukish Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA). The full list of nominees is available at Index’s website.
Huge congrats to @SAlwadaei! Can't think of anyone more deserving of such recognition. His tireless research and campaigning has exposed grave human rights abuses in #Bahrain. We at @hrw would not be able to do our work without Sayed's support. https://t.co/wOh3XJ0k1T
— Aya Majzoub (@Aya_Majzoub) April 16, 2020
Commenting after the ceremony, Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei stated: “It is a great honour to receive this award, which I could not have achieved without my wonderful team at BIRD and the tireless support of friends, family and other brave campaigners and NGOs around the world.
During this time of global crisis, hundreds of Bahrainis remain behind bars for their opposition to the government, including individuals who are elderly or have underlying conditions which make them vulnerable to COVID-19. Now more than ever, it is crucial that their plight is not forgotten and with support from Index, BIRD will continue to provide a platform for their voices to be heard.”