(New York) – Forty-eight writers from 24 countries have received 2011 Hellman/Hammett grants for their commitment to free expression and their courage in the face of persecution, Human Rights Watch said today.
The award-winners have faced persecution for their work, generally by government authorities seeking to prevent them from publishing information and opinions. Those honored include journalists, bloggers, novelists, poets, and playwrights, as well as a singer-songwriter and a cartoonist. They also represent numerous other writers worldwide whose personal and professional lives are disrupted by repressive policies to control speech and publications.
“The Hellman/Hammett grants help writers who have suffered because they published information or expressed ideas that criticize or offend people in power,” said Lawrence Moss, coordinator of the Hellman/Hammett grant program at Human Rights Watch. “Many of the writers honored by these grants share a common purpose with Human Rights Watch: to protect the rights of vulnerable people by shining a light on abuses and building pressure for change.”
Governments have used arbitrary arrest and detention, politically motivated criminal charges, and overbroad libel and sedition laws to try to silence this year’s Hellman/Hammett awardees. They have been harassed, threatened, assaulted, indicted, jailed on trumped-up charges, or tortured for peacefully expressing their views or informing the public. In addition to those who are directly targeted, many other writers are intimidated to practice self-censorship.
Free expression is a central human right, enshrined in article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which declares that “everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” On July 21, 2011, the Human Rights Committee, the expert body established under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, reiterated the central importance of freedom of opinion and expression, stating that these freedoms “are indispensable conditions for the full development of the person. They are essential for any society. They constitute the foundation stone for every free and democratic society.”
The Hellman-Hammett grants are given annually to writers around the world who have been targets of political persecution or human rights abuses. A distinguished selection committee awards the cash grants to honor and assist writers whose work and activities have been suppressed by repressive government policies.
The grants are named for the American playwright Lillian Hellman and her longtime companion, the novelist Dashiell Hammett. Both were both questioned by US congressional committees about their political beliefs and affiliations during the aggressive anti-communist investigations inspired by Senator Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s. Hellman suffered professionally and had trouble finding work. Hammett spent time in prison.
In 1989, the trustees appointed in Hellman's will asked Human Rights Watch to devise a program to help writers who were targeted for expressing views that their governments oppose, for criticizing government officials or actions, or for writing about subjects that their governments did not want reported.
Over the past 22 years, more than 700 writers from 92 countries have received Hellman/Hammett grants of up to US$10,000 each, totaling more than $3 million. The program also gives small emergency grants to writers who have an urgent need to leave their country or who need immediate medical treatment after serving prison terms or enduring torture.
Of the 48 winners this year, seven asked to remain anonymous to prevent further persecution. A list of the award-winners, including just the countries of the anonymous grantees, is below.
“The compelling stories of the Hellman/Hammett winners illustrate the danger to journalists and writers around the world,” Moss said.
Nominations for 2012 grants will be accepted through December 10, 2011.
For information and applications, see http://www.hrw.org/hhgrants/nominations
List of 2011 Hellman/Hammett grant winners
Short biographies available are at: http://www.hrw.org/hellman-hammett-2011-bios
Hang Chakra (Cambodia)
Venerable Luon Sovath (Cambodia)
Tumen Bayanmend (China)
Cui Zi’en (China)
Du Dao Bin (China)
Fan Yan Qiong (China)
Gao Yu (China)
Guo Quan (China)
Liu Xianbin (China)
Tan Zuoren (China)
Zhu Yu Fu (China)
Upi Asmaradhana (Indonesia)
Semuel Waileruny (Indonesia)
Alan Shadrake (Singapore)
Chiranuch Premchaiporn (Thailand)
Phan Than Hai (Vietnam)
Vi Duc Hoi (Vietnam)
Ho Thi Bich Khuong (Vietnam)
Le Tran Luat (Vietnam)
Nguyen Xuan Nghia (Vietnam)
Ta Phong Tan (Vietnam)
Nguyen Bac Truyen (Vietnam)
Cu Huy Ha Vu (Vietnam)
Europe and Central Asia
Nikolai Khalezin (Belarus)
Ramazan Yesergeopov (Kazakhstan)
Middle East and North Africa
Ali Abduleman (Bahrain)
Bahman Amhadi-Amouee (Iran)
Keveh Kermanshahi (Iran)
Amir Rashidi (Iran)
Rafael Marques de Morais (Angola)
Pierre Roger Lambo Sandjo aka Lapiro de Mbanga (Cameroon)
Deo Namujimbo (DRC)
Abebe Gellaw (Ethiopia)
Zerihun Tesfayae Wondimagegon (Ethiopia)
Robert Wanyonyi (Kenya)
Elias Adam Hassan (Somalia)
Hisham Adam (Sudan)
Luis H. Najera (Mexico)
Carlos Correa (Venezula)