PHOTO: Zaina Erhaim “This award is for the journalists sacrificing everything to get the stories of the Syrian people out” (Elina Kansikas)
Zaina Erhaim is a writer and journalist who has continued to work in Aleppo despite the challenges and risks of the civil war. She has trained more than 100 citizen reporters and helped establishing independent newspapers and magazines.
Erhaim is also the Syria project coordinator for the Institute for War and Peace Reporting, which supports journalists in countries undergoing conflict, crisis, or transition.
Last week Erhaim received Index on Censorship’s 2016 Freedom of Expression Journalism Award. This is her acceptance speech:
I am honored to receive this award here today. I believe this is not for Zaina as a person, but to the Syrian journalists and citizen journalists who refused to be turned into propagandists to the Assad regime, instead they chose to report the truth and the facts despite the very high price of that.
That’s why here I should be mentioning my great friends and colleagues who are greatly missed, Obaida Battal who has been kidnapped by ISIL [the Islamic State] in Aleppo for more than three years, Osama Hassan also abducted by ISIL in Raqqa for more than 2 years. We don’t know whether they are alive or dead.
Baseel Safadi, who won this award and is still being detained in the regime’s prisons for his activism.
Hasan Azhari, who was killed by Assad forces under torture in Latakia; Basel Shehad, killed in an Assadi air strike in Homs; Wasim al-Idel, killed by a Russian strike; and sadly the list is too long to be cited. Different means of killing and killers all for one cause, and one crime: Journalism, freedom of expression, echoing the silenced voices of Syrians demanding their freedom.
Those are the ones who I believe deserve all the honouring awards in the world.
I want to give this award to the Syrians who are being terrorised by one of the worst tyrants, ISIL, international jihadists and strikes, and above all those trying to flee and are being treated as potential terrorists themselves, and are being discriminated against for demanding justice, peace and a respected life in a free, democratic country.
This award is for the journalists and citizen journalists still taking this dangerous, difficult path, sacrificing everything, playing hide and seek with death to get the stories of the Syrian people out. So please keep your eyes on our news, pictures and videos, because great heroes are dying to get them to you.