Accessibility links

Breaking News


Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny (file photo)

BRUSSELS -- European lawmakers have nominated Kremlin critic and anti-corruption campaigner Aleksei Navalny for this year's Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.

The center-right European People’s Party (EPP), the biggest group in the European Parliament, said on September 18 that it had picked Navalny because "he does not only defend freedom of thought in Russia, but is one of the few voices of truth" in the country.

Navalny has been one of President Vladimir Putin's most vocal critics for the better part of a decade, enduring multiple incarcerations, a barred attempt to run for president, and a hamstrung bid for the Moscow mayor's post.

The deadline for nominations for the prestigious Sakharov Prize is September 19.

Other nominees include Ilham Tohti, an advocate for China's Uyghur minority who is serving a life sentence on separatism-related charges.

On September 30, all the nominees will be officially presented at the European Parliament’s committees on foreign affairs and development, which will shortlist three of them.

The laureate is to be announced on October 24.

The annual prize is named after the Soviet physicist and dissident Andrei Sakharov and was established in 1988 by the EU's parliament to honor individuals and organizations defending human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Last year's winner, the Ukrainian film-maker Oleg Sentsov, has yet to collect the prize

Sentsov was released from Russian custody earlier this month as part of a prisoner swap with Ukraine.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has denied censoring media. (file photo)

Pakistani media advocates, human rights activists, and opposition politicians have strongly denounced the government's plan to set up special tribunals to deal with media-related cases, calling the move yet another attack on press freedom in the country.

The All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS) said on September 18 that the decision marked a "black day" for the Pakistani media, while the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) urged the government to "refrain from pressurizing the media further."

The statements come after Prime Minister Imran Khan's cabinet earlier this week approved a plan to establish "media courts" to process cases faster and ensure fair trials, according to Khan's special assistant for information and broadcasting, Firdous Ashiq Awan.

Media-related cases are currently being dealt by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PERMA) and the Press Council of Pakistan.

Provided the bill is approved by parliament, such cases would in the future be referred to media tribunals, which will be overseen by higher courts, Awan said.

"The whole process will be a true reflection of laws and high democratic values," she tweeted on September 17, insisting that journalists could also take complaints about the government to the media courts.

However, APNS President Hameed Haroon and Secretary-General Sarmad Ali said in a statement that the special courts "aimed at intimidating and strangulating the media and freedom of expression."

Such courts are "not only unconstitutional but also contrary to the spirit of democracy," they also said, adding that the APNS intends to fight against the measure in parliament and the judiciary.

HRCP said that "given the government's woeful record on press freedoms, HRCP urges it to refrain from pressurizing the media further."

"How are tribunals expected to maintain the media's independence?" the nongovernmental watchdog asked in a tweet.

The opposition Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) vowed to oppose the government’s plans in parliament, with Senator Raza Rabbani saying: "The establishment of media courts is another way to threaten and pressurize the media."

PPP leader Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar said his party "will certainly not support any move to gag media," adding: "The bill will die in the parliament as [opposition parties] enjoy majority in the Senate."

Pakistan's successive governments and the powerful military has been accused for years of censoring the media.

Media freedom and human rights watchdogs have complained of growing pressure on broadcasters and newspapers to avoid covering critics of Khan's administration.

In July, Pakistani journalists demonstrated to denounce what the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists described as "unprecedented censorship” by the military and security services.

Authorities were also criticized for their decision to suspend several TV news channels from a cable network after they had broadcast a news conference by an opposition politician.

Khan, who took office in 2018, has denied censoring media.

The country is ranked 142nd out of 180 countries in the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders' (RSF) 2018 World Press Freedom Index.

With reporting by Reuters and Dawn

Load more

About This Blog

"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.


Journalists In Trouble

RFE/RL journalists take risks, face threats, and make sacrifices every day in an effort to gather the news. Our "Journalists In Trouble" page recognizes their courage and conviction, and documents the high price that many have paid simply for doing their jobs. More