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Freedom of Speech

DW Freedom of Speech Award

May 3, 2022

Since 2015, the DW Freedom of Speech Award has honored a media person or initiative that has shown outstanding promotion of freedom rights.

DW Freedom of Speech Award 2023

Promoting democratic values, human rights and the dialogue between different cultures has been at the core of DW for more than six decades. We provide high-quality journalistic content, giving people worldwide the opportunity to form their own opinions.

Since 2015, the DW Freedom of Speech Award (FoSA) has honored a media person or initiative that has shown outstanding promotion of freedom rights, especially freedom of expression and press freedom. Every year the Freedom of Speech Award ceremony is one of the highlights of DW’s Global Media Forum in Bonn, Germany.  

Get to know our courageous and impressive FoSA laureates:

Oscar Martinez | Chefredakteur von El Faro in El Salvador
Image: Alba Amaya/DW

2023: Óscar Martínez 

Óscar Martínez, investigative journalist and editor-in-chief of the online platform El Faro in El Salvador, is the recipient of the Freedom of Speech Award 2023. Openly critical of the government, the digital magazine El Faro is known throughout Latin America for its investigative reporting on organized crime, state corruption and extrajudicial killings by the police. The digital publication uncovered the negotiations of President Bukele's government with the criminal organization MS-13 (Mara Salvatrucha), operating in North and Central America, and exposed government collusion with the organization on sentence mitigation, changes in jurisdiction, and evasion of U.S. extradition requests. These findings were confirmed by the indictment of members of the MS-13 organization in a U.S. court.

DW Director General Peter Limbourg: "Central America is experiencing a new wave of authoritarianism - and with it comes increasingly limited press freedom. Never before have the media in El Salvador been more tightly controlled. Óscar Martínez and the editorial staff of El Faro are courageously standing up to the enormous pressure that journalists in El Salvador, as well as in other Central American countries, face in their work. They look behind the machinations of autocratic governments and organized crime, and inform the people of the region at great personal risk." 

Freedom of Speech Award 2022: Mstyslav Chernov & Evgeniy Maloletka
Image: AP Photo/picture alliance/Evgeniy Maloletka

 2022: Mstyslav Chernov and Evgeniy Maloletka

AP journalist and novelist Mstyslav Chernov and freelance photojournalist Evgeniy Maloletka are both from eastern Ukraine. Previously, their reports and footage from the conflicts in Crimea and eastern Ukraine have been published in various international media, including BBC, Deutsche Welle, The New York Times, Washington Post, Der Spiegel and others. As a war reporter in several conflict zones such as Iraq or Syria, Chernov has been wounded multiple times. Before the war, Maloletka had also been working on a project about the Hutsul community in western Ukraine, their traditions and daily life, and on the impact of the conflict in the Donbas.

The Freedom of Speech Award now honors the reporters' coverage of the war in Ukraine started by Russia on February 24, 2022. The report "20 days in Mariupol" offers a unique account of Mariupol under Russian siege, with Chernov and Maloletka being the last journalists in the city before their evacuation. They documented the city's first deaths at the city hospital of Mariupol and the attack on the maternity ward with pregnant women and children in it, as well as numerous bombings. During this work, the journalists themselves were under constant attack and took great risks only to find a steady connection to upload their footage of the siege, bringing it to the attention of the international community. They were evacuated by Ukrainian soldiers to avoid them falling into the hands of Russians, who had been hunting them down.

DW Director General Peter Limbourg: "The Freedom of Speech Award for Mstyslav Chernov and Evgeniy Maloletka is to recognize their exceptional courage in standing up against propaganda and misinformation. It is to recognize that their fight for human rights and for the truth is a fight for democracy and free societies, for all of us, and it comes at a high price."

Freedom of Speech Award 2021 | Tobore Ovuorie, Nigeria
Image: Elvis Okhifo/DW

2021: Tobore Ovuorie, Nigeria

Ovuorie has worked as an investigative journalist for leading publications in Nigeria for about ten years. In 2014, her most renowned investigative report to date was published. The widespread human trafficking ring uncovered by Ovuorie was involved in transnational sex trafficking, as well as organ trafficking. Following the journalist's revelations, Nigeria's authorities launched criminal investigations into those behind it. During her life-threatening research, Ovuorie witnessed illegal monetary transactions, corruption, violence, abuse and even murder.

DW Director General Peter Limbourg: "I think when someone puts themselves in danger like this to find out the truth, it is worthy of all respect. In her research, Tobore Ovuorie moves far beyond the journalistic comfort zone and also has to deal with people who are dangerous. I think it's very remarkable when journalists do that to shed light on wrongdoings."

2020: Fact-checkers fighting the infodemic in times of COVID-19

In 2020, in the midst of the coronavirus crisis, DW honored 17 journalists from 14 countries, representing all journalists worldwide who have disappeared, were arrested or threatened because of their reporting on the COVID-19 pandemic. The Global Media Forum 2020 had to be canceled due to the pandemic, but the award announcement on May 3, International Press Freedom Day, received broad coverage on DW’s TV channels, news websites and social media in 30 languages.

DW Director General Peter Limbourg: "At a moment of a global health emergency, journalism serves a crucial function and each journalist bears great responsibility. Citizens of any country have the right of access to fact-based information and critical findings."

See the list of all 2020 laureates here

Freedom of Speech Award 2019 | 2019 Winner: Anabel Hernández (Journalist, Mexico)
Image: DW/P. Böll

2019: Anabel Hernández, Mexico

Mexican investigative journalist Anabel Hernández received the DW Freedom of Speech Award in 2019 for her reporting on corruption and the collusion between government officials and drug cartels in her home country. Her book "Los Señores del Narco" (Narcoland), published in 2010,  documented these illegal relations and gained Hernández international recognition. So did her 2016 investigative report “La verdadera noche de Iguala. La historia que el gobierno trató de ocultar” (The real night of Iguala. The story the government tried to hide) about the abduction and murder of 43 students in Mexico in 2014. Forced to leave her home country following severe harassment and death threats, Hernández now lives in Europe and is a regular contributor to DW’s Spanish-language service.

Freedom of Speech Award
Image: DW/U. Wagner

2018: Sadegh Zibakalam, Iran

The DW Freedom of Speech Award 2018 laureate Sadegh Zibakalam is a professor of political science at the University of Tehran. At the time, he was facing a jail sentence for speaking out against the political situation in Iran in an interview with DW. Zibakalam, a well-known – and controversial – intellectual figure in his home country, has held intense debates with government officials, repeatedly criticizing their stance on domestic and foreign policy matters. Zibakalam dedicated his award to political prisoner Abbas Amir Entezam, "who, by spending 27 years in Evin prison, symbolizes the struggle for democracy and freedom in modern Iran."

Deutschland Bonn - Deutsche Welle GMF 2017 - Freedom of Speech Award 2017: White House Correspondents' Association
Journalist Jeff Mason, former president of the WHCA, accepted the award on behalf of the association.Image: DW/K. Danetzki

2017: White House Correspondents' Association (WHCA), USA

In 2017, the DW Freedom of Speech Award honored a group of people for the first time, the White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA). Many of their members were repeatedly labeled ‘enemy of the people’ by then-President Donald Trump. "We see this award as recognizing free press worldwide and in the U.S. and as a sign of solidarity and encouragement for those colleagues who have the exciting task of reporting about the U.S. President and his policies,” DW Director General Limbourg said at the award ceremony in Bonn, Germany.

Bonn Global Media Forum GMF 02 | Award Ceremony Sedat Ergin
Image: DW/M. Müller

2016: Sedat Ergin, Turkey

Sedat Ergin, former editor-in-chief of the renowned Turkish daily newspaper Hürriyet, received DW's second Freedom of Speech Award while being tried for allegedly insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. In 2015, Hürriyet had endured two attacks on its headquarters by pro-government mobs. "Freedom of speech is one of the most fundamental values of humankind," the journalist said at the Global Media Forum. "It is an essential aspect of our existence in human societies."

Ensaf Haidar, Frau des Bloggers Raif Badawi
Ensaf Haidar holding a picture of her husband Raif BadawiImage: picture-alliance/R. Remiorz

2015: Raif Badawi, Saudi Arabia

Saudi blogger Raif Badawi was the first recipient of the DW Freedom of Speech Award. He fought for freedom of expression in his country for years by addressing political and societal injustice. In June 2012, he was arrested and accused of insulting Islam, religious leaders and politicians. Authorities sentenced him to 1,000 lashes (he has received 50 so far), ten years in prison and a major fine in 2014. Badawi’s wife Ensaf Haidar and their three children have lived in Canada since 2013 and continue to campaign for their husband and father’s unconditional release from prison.