Our Men4Women initiative hit the mark, to involve men in the media sector in women’s rights and gender equality. It began in 2017 as a march in 3 countries, this year men from 14 countries took action. This growth was also due to the possibility of expressing online support through shout-outs using the hashtag #M4W18. 140 people posted a photo with a shout-out on our Facebook page and in Mali, 1,600 people used an M4W frame to demand gender equality. In this West African country, the online campaign reached almost 11,000 people. In 8 countries, 3,600 people took to the streets or attended an M4W event. In the Netherlands, flyers were handed out at the Mediapark in Hilversum and at the offices of major newspapers. Because women and men took action together in a growing number of countries, we decided to change the name of our initiative to Move4Women: everyone on the move for women’s rights!
Press Freedom Day
On 3rd May, Free Press Unlimited organised the Festival of the Free Word (Festival het Vrije Woord), together with the Dutch Association of Journalists (NVJ), World Press Photo and the Association of Chief Editors, among others. On this Press Freedom Day, some 150 journalists, students and other interested parties came to Beeld en Geluid in Hilversum. They listened to a Press Freedom lecture, talks about press freedom in the digital era and about the challenges in financial journalism. Furthermore, one of our colleagues gave a workshop on digital security.
Using this hashtag, dozens of visitors posted their engaged, emotional or encouraging messages for the speakers during Free Press Live 2018. Once again we were able to organise this event in the Peace Palace, thanks to the municipality of the Hague, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Dutch Postcode Lottery.
On 2nd November, over 300 journalists, policy makers, students and other interested parties came to listen to a series of impressive speakers. Free Press Unlimited director, Ruth Kronenburg, kicked off with a personal story about courage and the necessity of standing up for (press) freedom, after which Martin Turĉek, Paul Caruana Galizia, Jeroen Akkermans and Paul Vugts confirmed what presenter Aldith Hunkar had suggested: ‘Being a journalist is a serious health hazard.’ Foreign Affairs Minister Stef Blok offered journalists in need a helping hand: he launched the Legal Defense Fund, funded by his ministry, with which Free Press Unlimited can offer legal assistance to journalists abroad.
Journalist Martin Turĉek told of how the murder of his colleague, Jan Kúciak, led to cooperation between Slovak media, and how 100,000 enraged demonstrators forced the ministers responsible to resign. Paul, the youngest son of murdered investigative journalist, Daphne Caruana Galizia, emphasised that killing journalists is often preceded by years of threats. Jeroen Akkermans spoke about his persistent, years-long struggle for justice for colleague, Stan Storimans, who was killed by a Russian missile. And crime journalist, Paul Vugts, who had only just resumed work after months in hiding due to death threats, announced that he would first write about those who had threatened him: ‘We must keep going, that is our security.’
Four extraordinary journalists received the Free Press Awards. The Newcomer of the Year -Hans Verploeg Award – went to the talented, young Nigerian journalist, Kemi Busari. He carried out undercover research, with which he exposed corruption by the Nigerian immigration services, among other things. And the Best Report Award went to the Dutch duo Mirjam van Biemen and Mijke van Wijk who, for their radio documentary, ‘Watchdog of the Forest’ followed green criminologist, Tim Boekhout van Solinge, in his fight against deforestation in the Amazon.
The Most Resilient Journalist Award went to Indian journalist Rana Ayyub. Despite the fact that she is constantly being harassed, online and offline and receiving death threats, she continues to investigate corruption and human rights violations. Ayyub investigated extrajudicial killings of Muslims in India and through her publications, had a minister put behind bars. Minister Blok aptly summed up the message behind the Awards: ‘A free society cannot exist without a free press. And a free press cannot exist without courageous journalists.’