08 Mai Difference Day Honorary Award 2016 to two fiery ladies
Difference Day 2016 was a great success. Around 800 journalists, photographers and students took part in the second edition of the event at Bozar on 3 May, to focus on the problems facing journalists in the world today. The highlight was the awarding of honorary titles for freedom of expression: to the Charlie Hebdo journalist and columnist Zineb El Rhazoui, currently in hiding, and to Djemila Benhabib, a writer and fierce opponent of Islamic politics.
Press and freedom: they seem to be two opposing concepts in the current world context, and yet the two are inextricably linked. It’s not an easy or thankful task to be a journalist today, but journalists are more necessary than ever. On Difference Day 2016, the participants enjoyed inspiring debates and lectures and heard entertaining and important stories.
Last year, the first VUB/ULB Difference Day honorary title for freedom of expression was given to Saudi blogger Raif Badawi. He was sentenced to a thousand lashes and – despite strong international protest – is still in prison. This year there were two awards, honouring Benhabib and El Rhazoui for their role in the protection and promotion of freedom of thought and expression in a changing democratic society. El Rhazoui – in permanent hiding for her own safety – was unable to attend, but the Brussels theatre-maker Sam Touzani received the prize on her behalf and read out a poignant letter from her. Benhabib, a writer of Algerian origin who lives in Quebec, gave a haunting speech about the danger of Islamic politics. She spoke emotionally about Algeria in the 1990s and the bloody terror of Islamic fundamentalism that killed thousands of Algerians. But she also spoke of today’s political Islam, which is a danger to our society, our freedoms, our civilisation.
The Spanish cartoonist KAP won the Press Cartoon Europe Award. Some of his artworks are shown below, at the end of the article.