=By Funmi Falobi=
Two Nigerian non-governmental organisations, Media Rights Agenda (MRA) and the Institute for Media and Society (IMS) have been named among 15 “Global champions of free expression” that have been shortlisted for the 2019 Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Awards.
In a statement issued in London, the United Kingdom-based campaigning organisation, Index on Censorship, announced the 15 shortlisted individuals and organisations from around the world, saying they were drawn from more than 400 crowd sourced nominations which include “artists, writers, journalists and campaigners fighting for freedom of expression against immense obstacles.”
“Free speech is the cornerstone of a free society – and it’s under increasing threat worldwide. That’s why it’s more important than ever to recognise the groups and individuals willing to stand up for it,” Ms Jodie Ginsberg, CEO of Index on Censorship, said in the statement.
The Awards fellowships are offered in four categories, namely: Arts, Campaigning, Digital Activism and Journalism. Final winners in each category will be announced at a gala ceremony to be held in London on April 4, 2019.
Judges for this year’s awards include the award-winning investigative journalist and Rappler.com Editor-in-Chief, Maria Ressa; actor and filmmaker Khalid Abdalla; computer scientist and author Dr. Kate Devlin; and writer and social activist Nimco Ali.
Index on Censorship noted in its statement that Media Rights Agenda “has spent the last two decades working to improve media freedom and freedom of expression in Nigeria by challenging the government in courts,” adding that “Through its active legal team, MRA has initiated strategic litigation targeting dozens of institutions, politicians and officials to improve the country’s legal framework around media freedom.”
It said MRA’s “persistent campaigning and lawsuits on freedom of information have helped improve access to government-held data.”
Index on Censorship noted that IMS “aims to improve the country’s media landscape by challenging government regulation and fostering the creation of community radio stations in rural areas at a time when local journalism globally is under threat” and praised the organisation for combining “research and advocacy to challenge legal restrictions on the media as well as practical action to encourage Nigerians to use their voices.”