The winner of the 2015 UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize is Syrian journalist and human rights activist, Mazen Darwish, currently imprisoned. The Prize will be awarded during the celebration of World Press Freedom Day, 3 May, which will this year be hosted by Latvia (National Library, Riga, 6 p.m.).
An independent International Jury of media professionals recommended Mazen Darwish in recognition of the work that he has carried out in Syria for more than ten years at great personal sacrifice, enduring a travel ban, harassment, as well as repeated detention and torture. Led by Ko-ko U (Myanmar), chairman of the Yangon Media Group and publisher of the Yangon Times, the International Jury stressed the need to remember Mr Darwish, currently in prison, along with so many other human rights defenders and journalists.
Darwish, a lawyer and press freedom advocate, is the president of the Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression (CMFE), founded in 2004, and one of the founders of the Voice newspaper and syriaview.net, an independent news site, which has been banned by the Syrian authorities. In 2011, Darwish established Media Club, the first Syrian magazine about media affairs.
He has been detained since February 2012, when he was arrested with colleagues Hani Al-Zitani and Hussein Ghareer.
Numerous human rights and press organizations around the world have issued calls for the release of Darwish and his fellow journalists.
On 15 May, 2013 the UN General Assembly adopted Resolution 67/262 demanding that “the Syrian authorities immediately release all persons arbitrarily detained, including the members of the Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression.” In January 2014, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) addressed a communication to the Syrian authorities denouncing the arbitrary detention of Darwish and his Media Centre colleagues and called for their immediate release.
Created by UNESCO’s Executive Board in 1997, the annual UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize honours a person, organization or institution that has made an outstanding contribution to the defence and, or promotion of press freedom anywhere in the world, and especially when this has been achieved in the face of danger.
The $25,000 Prize is named in honour of Guillermo Cano Isaza, a Colombian journalist who was assassinated in front of the offices of his newspaper, El Espectador, in Bogotá, on 17 December 1986. It is funded by the Cano Foundation (Colombia) and the Helsingin Sanomat Foundation (Finland).