News and Notes

Issue Date July 2015
Volume 26
Issue 3
Page Numbers 187-89
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NED Democracy Awards

On May 14, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) presented its annual democracy award to Venezuelan political prisoners at an event held at the U.S. Congress. Leopoldo López and Antonio Ledezma, both prominent Venezuelan political prisoners, were honored, along with Venezuelan lawyer and human-rights advocate Tamara Sujú.

Ledezma, who in 2008 was elected mayor of Caracas, was arrested in February 2015 for “conspiring to overthrow the state.” López, leader of the opposition Voluntad Popular party and former mayor of Caracas’s Chacao municipality, was imprisoned in February 2014 on charges of inciting violence during a protest. Sujú, who created a foundation to bring aid to prisoners in Venezuela, has been living in exile in the Czech Republic, where she continues to advocate better protection for human rights in Venezuela.

López’s wife, Lilian Tintori, and Ledezma’s wife, Mitzy Capriles, accepted the awards on behalf of their husbands.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Ed Royce (R-CA) delivered remarks. Former Spanish prime minister Felipe González spoke at the event, as did U.S. Representatives Elliot Engel (D-NY), Peter Roskam (R-IL), and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL). For a video of the event and transcripts of the speeches, visit

Journalism Awards

On May 5, imprisoned Azerbaijani journalist Khadija Ismayilova won the 2015 Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award from the PEN American Center. The award recognized Ismayilova for her courageous work to expose corruption—including uncovering the unethical business dealings of Azerbaijani president Ilham Aliyev—through investigative reporting. In December 2014, Ismayilova was arrested on politically motivated charges following a longtime government campaign [End Page 187] against her. A few weeks later, the Baku bureau of the Azerbaijani Service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), where Ismayilova had worked, was shut down following a government raid. Prior to her imprisonment, Ismayilova was a dedicated advocate for jailed human-rights activists in Azerbaijan. While in prison, Ismayilova has written a series of letters calling attention to the increasing repression within Azerbaijan. Excerpts from one of these letters appear on pp. 184–5 above.

On May 18, the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) presented its 2015 Knight International Journalism Award to Cuban blogger Yoani Sánchez and Indian journalist Priyanka Dubey. Since 2007, Sánchez has authored a blog to shed light on daily life under Cuba’s strict censorship laws. In 2014, Sánchez launched, Cuba’s first daily online-news service, which offers an independent platform for journalists. Dubey’s investigative reporting has brought attention to human-rights abuses against women and children in India.

World Press Freedom Day

On April 22, NED’s Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA) commemorated World Press Freedom Day with a full-day conference on “Journalism on the Offensive in Africa.” The event brought together prominent journalists and human-rights activists from across Africa to discuss challenges to media freedom throughout the continent. The conference included panels on digital media, investigative journalism, and the role of the international community in supporting independent media, as well as a screening of Guidebook to Impunity, a film produced by the Nairobi-based organization InformAction. Featured participants included Congresswoman Karen Bass (D-CA); Ambassador Princeton Lyman; and Maina Kiai, the UN special rapporteur on the rights of freedom of assembly and association.


The April 2015 essay “Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement: Beijing’s Broken Promises,” authored by Michael C. Davis, incorrectly stated that Hong Kong has had five chief executives since 1999; it has in fact had only three (C.H. Tung, Donald Tsang, and C.Y. Leung). The editors regret the error.

The April 2015 essay “Autocratic Legalism in Venezuela,” authored by Javier Corrales, incorrectly said that the share of independent media in Venezuela declined from 80 percent in 1998 to 39 percent in 2014; it has in fact had a less steep decline, from 50 percent in 1998 to 39 percent in 2014. The author and the editors regret the error.

International Forum

Continuing its lecture series on building coalitions for economic reform, which began with a February 26 meeting on Brazil, the Forum [End Page 188] and the Legatum Institute co-sponsored two subsequent presentations: On April 16 Rajiv Kumar of the Center for Policy Research (India) delivered remarks on “India 2015: Towards Economic Transition.” NED president Carl Gershman moderated the event. The third and final session in this series, held on May 7, was entitled “Rising to the Challenge: Mexico’s Push for Deeper Reform.” It featured Carlos Elizondo of the Mexico City–based Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas (CIDE). Christian Caryl of the Legatum Institute moderated the discussion.

On April 21, the Forum hosted a presentation on “Hate Crime and Hate Speech Legislation in Russia: Lessons from Europe.” The panelists included former Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow Alexander Verkhovsky, director of the Moscow-based SOVA Center for Information and Analysis, and Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow Dmitry Dubrovsky.

On April 23, the Forum organized a panel on “The Authoritarian Resurgence: China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela,” based on articles that appeared in the January and April 2015 issues of the Journal of Democracy. Remarks were delivered by Javier Corrales, Amherst College; Andrew J. Nathan, Columbia University; Lilia Shevtsova, Brookings Institution; and Frederic Wehrey, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. The Forum’s Christopher Walker moderated the session.

On April 30, Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow Pepe Julian Onziema (Uganda), a human-rights defender, gave a talk entitled “In the Shadows of Democracy: LGBTIQ Rights in Uganda”; Wade McMullen of RFK Human Rights Center moderated the event. On June 10, Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow Tidiani Togola (Mali), an information and communication technologies specialist, delivered a presentation on “Election Observation in the Digital Era: Challenges and Opportunities for West Africa.” Sophia Moestrup of the National Democratic Institute offered comments.

On May 7, the Forum and NED’s Eurasia program cosponsored a presentation entitled “Azerbaijan: A Test Case for Democratic Solidarity,” featuring Emin Milli of Meydan TV, Kenan Aliyev of RFE/RL’s Azerbaijani Service, and Thomas de Waal of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Miriam Lanskoy of NED served as moderator.

On May 8, the Forum organized an internal briefing to discuss the influence of authoritarian state media on civil society in Russia. The session featured remarks by Maria Snegovaya of Columbia University and comments by NED’s Miriam Lanskoy.

In April, the Forum launched a new website on “Resurgent Dictatorship: The Global Assault on Democracy.” The website, which features a blog, is intended to serve as a reference point for understanding the diverse ways in which authoritarian regimes are seeking to influence the international order. To access the website, visit [End Page 189]


Copyright © 2015 National Endowment for Democracy and Johns Hopkins University Press