On 3 May 2015, Syrian journalist and human rights activist, Mazen Darwish, was awarded the 2015 UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize. Yara Bader, Director of the Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression and wife of Mazen Darwish, accepted the Prize on behalf of her husband.
She gave the following speech:
“Ladies and Gentlemen
I stand before you today, filled with pride, but also with sorrow, Proud as the award is dedicated to Mazen, bit sad that Mazen is not here to receive it, but rather in a detention center very far away, far away from civilization. Preparing for my trip here I was asked wither Mazen could join this event via Skype or so… I was startled for a few minutes. I do hear about some European prisons where prisoners are allowed to communicate with the world. But Mazen and I, we come from a country where human rights are not respected, However, it is a country the people of which are standing up against the walls surrounding them, and are serious about their dreams of building a better future.
What we are going through today might be similar to what Europe went through before, and I mean the leap into Enlightenment, and later on , the uncompromising rejection of despotism, where a human being can be detained in a 1 by 1 and a half meter dungeon, dark, damp, besides being proud and sad.
I am also a little lost.I am nothing but a beginner, learning about journalism, and about freedom.
And if we were all born free, or as “Schilling” put it already in the 18th century , Freedom is the Essence of Humanity, then I would say that only the very few who cherish with deep moral sense, and have awareness of moral responsibility such a profound ethos are really a free, fighting a lifetime in the struggle for freedom, they are truly free. Because I think that struggle is the road to freedom itself. Mazen Darwish is one of those few.
He is a free actor, haunted with high responsibility ethical and awareness first and foremost. There for, more than 10 years ago, Mazen choose, with free will, to abandon so much, and return to his country, work in it and for it, within its context and under the overwhelming shadow if the oppression that rules it.
As journalism is the most significant human activity operating in the face of absolute state power, as it breaks the state control over knowledge and information, Mazen, a lawyer and a has rights defender, chose to work as a journalist.
“Word is a Basic Right, Defending it is a Basic Duty” was the slogan of the center Mazen established in Damascus 2004, aiming at monitoring the state of liberties in Syria, the violations against those who strive for their right of expression. Dedication, Mazen worked daily for more than 12 hours, to purplish information and monitors the authorities’ mechanisms to control information.
As there is no free society in the shadow of authoritarian institutions compulsion, Mazen fight for transparency was a fight for The Right to Freedom of Information and the Right of Free Self Expression as basic rights for citizenship and human dignity. Always the struggle for free media within such context is an ethical struggle before anything else.
In 2007, Mazen wrote that “the ongoing strive for the liberation of media from state control is one of the core elements of a real and comprehensive democratic transformation in the Arab World.
His detention in early 2012 was a strong message of repression, not to Mazen alone, but to such a civil and peaceful movement of reason at large. But it cannot detain ideas, or free will, the despotic authority might be able only of depriving one of their ability to contribute and remain active, depriving the free choice to cherish the common notion that “there are no reliable alternatives out of this authority control”.
In Spring 2011, Mazen wrote “no regime, government or group was ever able of monopolizong the truth, hiding it nor even concealing a its multi-facetted nature. Not even in the days of steel curtains and singular ideologies”.
But today, in the age of telecommunication and social networking, the authorities rely on a “chaos of information” strategy… On creating a thick layer of fog that deprives a journalist of the necessary clear vision.
Journalism as a creative process, has its aims and fixed principles, their mediums and actors who used those principles to achieve anti speech are changing, this system in need of a people who has ability to develop an active “general system” by their work that include free well and awareness of ethical responsibility.
Mazen was standing up to this responsibility. His detention, and the persistent refusal to release him, is aimed at those principals, not only at his person.The targeting of prominent journalists, those who can contribute to a better and freer vision, has always been a field of excellence for authorities.
Amid the madness of war, along this harsh and painful journey to freedom, we fight with our moral standards, professional tools, and with our free will This is what I learned from you, Mazen
I need you, but I am fully aware that Syria needs you more than I do, as much as it needs ethical effectiveness and free press.
Mazen would say:
“To Inana and Adad, my children, I dedicate this award, years of my love that I have spent in the dark, are for you to live in the light, without fear of dreaming, of ideas, of words that you would and should say
So, for that, forgive my absence today”.