Celebration of truth and justice ringside seat

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Journalist Mimi Mefo accepts her Freedom of Expression 2019 award

Journalist Mimi Mefo accepts her Freedom of Expression 2019 award. Pic © Sophie Drew JMU Journalism

Index on Censorship’s ‘Freedom Of Expression Awards’ are a celebration of the men and women defying censorship and rising up against media control in every corner of the world – and this year, JMU Journalism was invited to attend the prestigious awards ceremony.

Index on Censorship is a magazine and website known across the globe for supporting reporters, artists and filmmakers in their fight against censorship.

Naturally, when we were given the chance to come along, we jumped at the opportunity. Not only were we able to spend time at London’s glitzy May Fair Hotel amongst industry movers and shakers – we were able to listen to some incredibly inspirational people talk about their plight, perseverance and resistance.

Many of these people were facing extreme adversity, and even life-threatening violence, as they speak their truths and fight for justice.

One such person was Journalism Award Winner Mimi Mefo, a broadcast journalist and force-of-nature. She has risen up against threats, imprisonment and persecution to expose the growing violence in Cameroon, known as the Anglophone Crisis.

YouTube: Index on Censorship

She has campaigned against the detainment of journalists in the Central African country, where 18 journalists have faced imprisonment as a result of their reporting. She was warm, bold and passionate as she delivered her speech; “A government that silences journalists is weak and scared”, she said. “I will continue to be a voice for the voiceless.”

Turkish artist Zehra Dogan picked up the Arts Award for her persistence and resolution; she has continued to paint, and report on, human rights abuses and political prisoners even whilst being imprisoned herself.

She used newspapers and milk cartons as canvases, and made dyes out of crushed fruit, herbs and even blood after prison officers confiscated her art supplies. She shares her art on social media, drawing attention from around the globe.

The event was compered by highly-popular comedian Nish Kumar, who made scathing remarks about the Daily Mail (one of the event’s sponsors!) and the government’s handling of Brexit, fully using his own ‘freedom of expression’. Kumar appeared to be a huge hit with the crowd and was so popular that, despite our best efforts, we absolutely could not get near him for a photo.

JMU Journalism's Robbie Robinson and Sophie Drew, right, talk to former students Kieran Etoria-King, left, and Lewis Jennings

JMU Journalism’s Robbie Robinson and Sophie Drew, right, talk to former students Kieran Etoria-King, left, and Lewis Jennings. Pic © JMU Journalism

The awards after-party provided an opportunity to mingle. We spoke to Campaigning Award winner Terry Anderson from the Cartoonists Rights Network International, who told us about the threats and abuses faced by cartoonists all over the world: “Often you find that people see cartoons as a negative art form.

“Cartoons are generally against something and are satirising something. A journalist can criticise somebody over a long piece of writing, where as a cartoon can be easily accessed and is in your eyes, face and brain before you have had a chance to think of it.

“So somebody in a position of power can easily become offended by that.”

Finally, we met up with former JMU Journalism students Kieran Etoria-King and Lewis Jennings, who are previous and current holders of the LJMU Tim Hetherington Fellowship, which involves a year-long role as editorial assistant working with Index on Censorship’s magazine and website.

About Sophie Drew & Robbie Robinson, JMU Journalism