Human Rights and Freedom of Press at center of Four Freedoms Awards 2010

On May 29, 2010 the International Four Freedoms Award 2010 will be granted to the European Court of Human Rights, in a ceremony held in the Nieuwe Kerk in Middelburg. Jean Paul Costa, the President of the Court will accept the medal on behalf of the Court. At the same ceremony, the Freedom of Speech and Expression Medal will be granted to the Russian weekly Novaya Gazeta, for their resolute commitment to freedom of the press, the Freedom of Worship Medal to human rights activist and UN-rapporteur for freedom of religion Dr. Asma Jahangir from Pakistan, the Freedom from Want Medal to Maurice Strong from Canada, in recognition of his role as a foremost spokesman regarding global environmental concerns and the principle of sustainability, and the Freedom from Fear Medal to Gareth Evans former Foreign Minister of Australia and recently retired Chair of the International Crisis Group, headquartered in Brussels. Gareth Evans career is reflected in the significan role he has been assigned in preparation for the UN negotiations of the nuclear non-proliferation agreements.

The European Court of Human Rights will receive the award for its contribution to the protection of individual human rights in post-war Europe in the past half century. Since its founding in 1959 the Court has decided more than 10,000 cases on the basis of the principles laid out in the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of 1950. The principles of this Convention include the right to a fair trial and a condemnation of discrimination and can be traced to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms. The European Court for Human Rights offers citizens an accessible tool to strengthen an effective democracy and reinforce a constitutional state. The Court effectively applies the principles of Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms in the contemporary world.

The Four Freedoms, first declared by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on January 6th 1941 in an address to the American Congress, are still a pressing concern and essential to humanity. All over the world individual citizens and organizations commit themselves to the protection of these freedoms, which are the basis of the Charter of the United Nations.

The Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute in Hyde Park, New York and the Roosevelt Stichting of Middelburg, the Netherlands, cooperate to organize the annual presentation of the Four Freedoms Awards to emphasize that the struggle for freedom is far from over. The ceremony is a reminder that social engagement and personal efforts are powerful peaceful instruments for the protection of freedom. The event originated in New York in 1950, and since 1982, the centennial of F.D. Roosevelt’s birth and the bicentennial of Dutch-American diplomatic relations, the Four Freedoms medals have also been presented in Middelburg, the Netherlands. Among the many exceptional laureates decorated in Middelburg have been H.R.H. Princess Juliana, Alessandro Pertini, Harold Macmillan, Olof Palme, Helmut Schmidt, Teddy Kollek, Václav Havel, Jacques Delors, Simon Wiesenthal, Javier Pérez de Cuéllar, the Dalai Lama, Nelson Mandela, Kofi Anan, Mohamed ElBaradei and Richard von Weizsäcker.

In addition to the European Court of Human Rights the following recipients were chosen for the Four Freedoms Awards 2010:

Freedom of Speech and Expression – Novaya Gazeta
On behalf of the Russian weekly Novaya Gazeta, Dimitri Muratov, editor, will receive the Freedom of Speech and Expression Medal. Novaya Gazeta began publication in 1993 and was financed partly with funds from Nobel Prize Winner and Four Freedoms Award Laureate (1990) Mikhael Gorbachov to promote free media in Russia.

The journalists of Novaya Gazeta are not intimidated by vehement opposition, legal trials, or death threats, but write with integrity after careful research about corruption, domestic issues, activities of the security services, violations of human rights, and international news affecting Russia. Novaya Gazeta is an indispensable source of information for democrats, intellectuals, opinion leaders and other, more powerful groups, about what happens in Russia. Five reporters and editors of the Gazeta have paid the highest price and been killed for defending the ideals of free speech: Stanislav Markelov, Anastasia Baburova, Anna Politskovkaya, Yuri Sjekochikin and Igor Domnikov.

The leaders of Russia, although frequently targets of the newspaper’s criticism, pay close attention to its stories and occasionally meet to discuss problems with the Novaya Gazeta’s editors and publisher.

Alexander Lebedev, one of the owners of Novaya Gazeta, is the proprietor of the London daily the Evening Standard since early 2009. In a recent article in the British weekly the Observer Dimitri Muratov, the editor of Novaya Gazeta, characterized the fifty-year old Lebedev as “an enlightened, hands-off owner who allows [the journalists] to get on with their job. If he doesn’t like the editorial line, he writes an owner’s column.” Lebedev owns 39% of the stock in the weekly, former president Gorbachov 10%, and the remaining stock is owned by the employees.

The Roosevelt Institute honors in the award to Novaya Gazeta all who put their lives in danger to defend the freedom of the press, which is so often taken for granted.

Dr. Asma Jahangir (Pakistan, 1952) is a lawyer and human rights activist. Since 2004 she acts as the special UN-rapporteur for freedom of religion. Her efforts advance the mutual understanding of religions in a time of confrontation and violence. In her official capacity she initiates and encourages intercultural dialogue between countries. She operates on the assumption that religion is part of culture and that different religions share sufficient values and standards to allow them to show respect for each others worldviews.

Asma Jahangir is the founder of the Human Rights Commission in Pakistan. In 1980 she and other women opened the first law firm in Pakistan run by women, followed by AGHS Legal Aid, a center for free legal advice.

The introduction of the Blasphemy, Zina and Hudood Ordinances during the decade-long regime of General Zia-ul-Haq, generated a number of law suits in which Jahangir was involved. Her commitment led to her house arrest and she and her family received various death threats. One of the most controversial cases was her defense of Safia Bibi, a 13-year blind girl who was raped by her employer in 1983. Safia Bibi was accussed of adultery on the basis of the Zina Ordinance. Jahangir succeeded in annulling the verdict, which was the death penalty. Her defense of a 14-year-old boy, who received the death penalty on the accusation of blasphemy in 1995, led to intimidation of Jahangir and her family in 1995. In January 2008 her two daughters and friends were kidnapped and assaulted for filming torn election posters shortly after Benazir Bhutto’s assassination at the end of 2007.

In 1988 she published Divine Sanction? The Hudood Ordinance and in 1992 Children of a Lesser God: Child Prisoners of Pakistan.

Freedom from Want – Maurice Strong
Maurice Strong (Canada, 1929) is globally recognized as the doyen of the protection of the environment through the principle of sustainability. He receives the Freedom from Want award for his ceaseless efforts in this crucial campaign to preserve and protect our environment for future generations.

Through his leadership of the seminal Stockholm Conference in 1972 the protection of the environment became an important issue supported by leaders of the developing world. The conference resulted in the founding of the UNEP (United Nations Environment Program).

Maurice Strong was the organizer and Secretary General of the Earth Summit in 1992 in Rio de Janeiro which focused on climate change and the preservation of biodiversity and resulted in the ratification of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The conclusion of his opening speech voiced his strong appeal for concerted action:

Our essential unity as peoples of the Earth must transcend the differences and difficulties which still divide us. You are called upon to rise to your historic responsibility as custodians of the planet in taking the decisions here that will unite rich and poor, North, South, East and West, in a new global partnership to ensure our common future. The road beyond Rio will be a long and difficult one; but it will also be a journey of renewed hope, of excitement, challenge and opportunity, leading as we move into the 21st century to the dawning of a new world in which the hopes and aspirations of all the world’s children for a more secure and hospitable future can be fulfilled. This unprecedented responsibility is in your hands. “

In addition to his continuing work in Canada and the UN, Maurice Strong is actively involved in China where he advises the authorities and corporations about sustainable production. He is on the staff of Beijing University and, among other functions, chairs the Institute for Research on Security and Sustainability for North-East Asia.

Freedom from Fear – Gareth Evans
Gareth Evans (Australia, 1944) receives the Freedom from Fear award for his pioneering work in compelling the world to understand the Responsibility to Protect Concept (R2P). According to R2P, national sovereignty can no longer serve as a protective shield for nations which allow their own citizens to be the subject of atrocities and genocidal crimes.

As Foreign Minister of Australia Evans was one of the main drafters of the peace treaty between the government of Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge in 1991, as well as the Chemical Weapons Convention, ratified by fifty states and effective since 1997.

Between 2000 and 2009 he chaired the International Crisis Group and co-chaired the UN International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS), which produced the 2001 report The Responsibility to Protect. He served on the Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change as advisor to the UN’s Secretary General.

In 2008 the Australian government appointed Evans and the former Foreign Minister of Japan, Yoriko Kawaguchi, as chair of the International Commission on Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament, founded jointly by both countries. This appointment involved him closely in the negotiations with Iraq and North-Korea.

Evans has published nine books on foreign policy, international relations and human rights. In 2009 he contributed with Desmond Tutu, Sir Bob Geldof and Sir Richard Branson to the documentary Soldiers of Peace, produced by Michael Douglas.

Four Freedoms Events
To spread the message of the Four Freedoms a number of activities will be organized in cooperation with the Roosevelt Academy, Hogeschool Zeeland and the Roosevelt Study Center. Information about these events in 2010 will be posted on the website

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