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Freedom of Expression Award

This is an extract from Amnesty International Freedom of Expression Award Judge Neil Cooper’s moving speech given at the Award Ceremony in Edinburgh last Friday.

There was a very silly newspaper article published the other day by a lady who came to Edinburgh in search of shortbread, kilts and heather.
Instead, she found an Edinburgh Festival full of “leftist tripe” and a Scotland “deep in Socialism.”
Well, both of them sound okay to me, but neither is true.

This is a world, after all, that sentences a twenty-five year old soldier to thirty-five years in prison for telling the truth.
This is a world that detains the partner of a journalist for nine hours and threatens him with prison even though he's done nothing wrong.
This is the world that says severely disabled people are fit for work even though they're patently not, but cuts their incapacity benefit anyway.
And this is the world where a politician found guilty of multiple accounts of domestic abuse is still allowed to remain in office.
None of these events described happened in some far-off Third World dictatorship.
Rather, every single one of them happened in the western so-called democracies of America, England and Scotland in the last week.
And that's why the Amnesty International Freedom of Expression Award is so important.
It's important that, among all the anarchy and chaos and irreverent joy of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, this Award has cleared a space for serious thought, for serious discussion, and for serious art.
But as long as the issues highlighted in all of them continue, it is vital they exist, and the great artists behind them continue to transcend the stories behind each of them and turn them into something beautiful.
The nominees for the 2013 Amnesty International Freedom of Expression Award were:
Ban This Filth!
Brace: Fionnuala
Our Glass House
The Radicalisation of Bradley Manning
There's a danger with an Award like this one that, in trying to highlight the importance of the work, you end up making it look like a league table, and that one issue is more important than the other.
They're not.
Every issue raised, and every piece of work nominated, are as vital as each other.
This year we made a Special Commendation to a show that was unique, both in location and delivery, and which brought home the issues of domestic abuse in a way that was at times too close for comfort, while remaining riveting throughout – Our Glass House.
Bravery is a much overused word in the theatre, but for the winning production there was no other word for it.
The dignity and power that the cast displayed in telling not just their stories, but the story of what can happen if you allow misogyny to run riot is moving, harrowing, and the most powerful show of strength imaginable.
I am proud and humbled to announce that the winner of the 2013 Amnesty International Freedom of Expression Award is Nirbhaya.

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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