The Nobel laureates, and representatives for the laureates of the important awards for freedom of expression, Prix Voltaire, and the Golden Pen Award, will all be among the speakers at the first WEXFO Congress. In addition to Maria Ressa (PH) confirming her participation in the congress, it is now clear that the second Nobel laureate, Dmitry Muratov (RU), is also coming. The same applies to Rasha Al Ameer (LB) and a representative for Jimmy Lai (HK).
Ressa and Muratov received the Nobel Peace Prize “for their efforts to promote freedom of expression, which is a prerequisite for democracy and lasting peace.” The fact that both peace prize laureates are participating is very important in terms of establishing a successful international forum for freedom of expression in Norway.
Six of his colleagues killed
“It is fantastic to have Dmitry Muratov back in Norway and that he is coming to the first world congress in Lillehammer. This says something about the close relationship between Norway and Russia: Although the political relationship is cold, the relationship between Norwegian and Russian journalists is warm,” says Aage Borchgrevink, adviser to the NHC and chair of the WEXFO program committee.
Dmitry Muratov is a journalist, editor, and co-founder of the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta.
“I have worked with several of Muratov’s journalists, including Anna Politkovskaya who was shot in Moscow in 2006. Russia is one of the world’s most dangerous countries for journalists, and six of the journalists of Muratov’s newspaper, Novaya Gazeta, have been killed. Yet Russian journalists are among the most skilled investigative journalists in Europe and Novaya Gazeta continues to expose dramatic abuses such as the bloody persecution of queers in Chechnya, ” Borchgrevink explains.
He stresses the importance of experiences like Muratov’s being shared with the world.
“His experience of keeping an independent newspaper afloat for more than 25 years in extreme circumstances is important for a whole world to know, but not least for journalists, editors and citizens of authoritarian countries fighting a similar struggle to that of Dmitry Muratov”.
Ten warrants in two years
It was announced last week that Maria Ressa, who shares the Peace Prize with Muratov, is coming to WEXFO.
“Maria Ressa is one of the world’s most influential voices in the free speech struggle, and she has emphasized, among other things, the connection between democracy, peace, journalism, and freedom of expression”, says Veslemøy Østrem, a member of the program committee and news editor of the Norwegian newspaper Vårt Land.
Maria Ressa is co-founder, CEO, and editor-in-chief of the news organization Rappler.com. She has been honoured around the world for her courageous work fighting disinformation, fake news and attempts to silence the free press. At the same time, she has received ten warrants for her arrest in two years.
“You don’t leave a meeting with Maria Ressa unaffected. She has tremendous strength. Her own story is harrowing proof of what is at stake in a world where authoritarian leaders use technology to suppress both their own populations and their opponents”, continues Veslemøy Østrem.
The ambition is for WEXFO to act as a connection point for collaboration and knowledge exchange between people and organisations who are already doing important work for freedom of expression.
“WEXFO will be a congress where we share experiences and look for solutions. We have asked Maria Ressa to talk about what tools we have in the fight for freedom of expression and about the importance of a free press and a free and critical debate”, Østrem concludes.
More names are coming
Managing Director of WEXFO, Kristenn Einarsson is pleased with the development of the program so far:
“There is great support for our first conference in Lillehammer, we look forward to presenting the program and several speakers in February”.
Other confirmed speakers for the congress include the president of the international publishers’ association, Bodour Al Qasimi (AE), recipient of the IPA Prix Voltaire, Rasha Al Ameer (LB), and a representative of Golden Pen Award recipient Jimmy Lai (HK).