BEIRUT: The EU Special Representative for Human Rights Monday said the freedom of expression and freedom of the media were two essential prerequisites for active and engaged citizenry.
"Without freedom of expression and freedom of the media, an informed, active and engaged citizenry is impossible," Stavros Lambrinidis said during the annual ceremony for the Samir Kassir Award for Freedom of the Press in Beirut.
Lambrinidis highlighted how freedom of expression online and offline was essential for the fulfilment and enjoyment of a wide range of other human rights, including freedom of association and assembly, freedom of thought, religion or belief, the right to education, the right to take part in cultural life, the right to vote and all other political rights related to participation in public affairs.
The Samir Kassir Award for Freedom of the Press is granted by the European Union, and rewards journalists who have distinguished themselves through the quality of their work and their commitment to human rights and democracy.
Organised every year since 2006, the Samir Kassir Award honours the memory of Lebanese journalist Samir Kassir who was assassinated on 2 June 2005 in Beirut.
As in previous years, an independent jury selected the winners. It comprised seven personalities from Europe and the Middle East. The award ceremony was hosted by Mona Wehbi, journalist at Al-Hurra TV.
The Head of the Delegation of the European Union to Lebanon, Ambassador Angelina Eichhorst, underlined that "the yearly edition of this unique award is a tangible proof of the EU's unwavering support to freedom of expression as a key element of deep democracy."
"Journalists pay a high price to expose abuses and raise awareness about violations of fundamental rights,” Eichhorst continued. “Rewarding excellence in journalism needs to be distinguished because our ability to act as informed citizens of the world also depends on media that can work freely and safely."
The three winners of the 2014 edition, each of whom received awards worth €10 000, included print journalists Hanene Zbiss from Tunisia and Mohamed Abo El-Ghit from Egypt and Syrian journalist and filmmaker Orwa Mokdad.
El-Ghit published his article “Season of the living dead” in renowned Egyptian Al-Shorouk newspaper on January 3, 2014. In his article, El-Ghit described the violent clashes that opposed, before the ouster of former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, supporters and opponents of the Muslim Brotherhood.
“He deplores the "herd" mentality that pushed people from both sides to resort to the worst levels of violence,” according to a statement issued by the EU delegation.
As for Hanene Zbiss, she published her investigative report “Quranic kindergartens in Tunisia” in the magazine “Réalités” (Realities) on October 10, 2013. Her article describes how Tunisia has witnessed, since the January 2011 uprising, the proliferation of so-called “Quranic kindergartens,” established by religious associations.
Syrian journalist and film maker Orwa Mokdad won an award for his audiovisual report titled "Syrian Music." Mokdad’s work depicts how the Syrian war affected young Syrian singers and musicians living in Beirut and their struggle to combat violence through art.