Gauri Lankesh Posthumously Honoured With Anna Politkovskaya Award 

Gauri Lankesh shared the Award with Gulalai Ismail, a peace activist from Pakistan.

Published05 Oct 2017, 03:57 PM IST
India
2 min read

Two fearless Asian women, who have risked their lives campaigning against religious extremism – one of whom was murdered last month – won a joint award on Thursday for their common courage.

Gauri Lankesh, 55, an outspoken Indian newspaper editor, was shot dead outside her home by unidentified assailants in the city of Bengaluru, at a time of rising nationalism and intolerance of dissent in the country.

"This award is a morale booster for people who want to write, and fight," Lankesh's sister, Kavitha, told Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone. "It honours what Gauri stood for."

Lankesh shared the annual Reach All Women in WAR (RAW in WAR) Anna Politkovskaya Award with Gulalai Ismail, 31, a peace activist who has faced death threats for speaking out against the Taliban in northwest Pakistan.

Concerns about freedom of press are mounting in India, where journalists seen as critical of the Hindutva culture are often insulted and threatened with assault on social media.

People are wondering if they should get into journalism at all. There is an apprehension among people who want to do ethical work.
Kavitha, Gauri Lankesh’s Sister

Lankesh, the editor and publisher of a weekly Indian tabloid, was a staunch critic of the right-wing political ideology.

She often wrote about religious violence, the problem of India's hierarchical caste system, and criticised the rise of extremist religious groups since the Bharatiya Janata Party came into power in 2014.

Common Courage

Nearly 1,500 miles (2,414 km) away, in Pakistan's northern city of Peshawar, co-winner Ismail said she felt numb with grief when she heard about Lankesh's murder.

"It was heartbreaking that an advocate of democracy, a courageous voice, was silenced," she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone from Peshawar.

This award recognises our common struggle and courage.
Gulalai Ismail, Pakistani Peace Activist

Ismail co-founded the advocacy group Aware Girls when she was 16, to challenge the violence and oppression of women in northwest Pakistan. She also trains young peace activists in democracy to counter militant radicalisation.

Ismail has been threatened several times on social media, branded as Islamophobic for speaking out against extremism, and has been accused of atheism.

"My home has been attacked twice," she said, describing how four armed gunmen tried to force their way into her home when she was delayed at the airport. "I have been branded a traitor".

The award marks the 11th anniversary of the killing of Politkovskaya, a Russian investigative reporter, who uncovered state corruption and rights abuses, especially in Chechnya.

She was shot dead in the lobby of her Moscow apartment block at the age of 48 on 7 October 2006.

RAW in WAR, a London-based non-governmental organisation, supporting women human rights defenders and victims of war, also honoured Rohingya refugee Jamalida Begum, who spoke out publicly about her rape by Myanmar security forces.

(Thomson Reuters Foundation is the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience.)

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