2016 Gala Award Winners Remarks | Freedom House

2016 Gala Award Winners Remarks


Remarks from Hala Aldosari, Saudi human rights activist

I’m deeply honored to receive such a prestigious distinction and to be among iconic freedom advocates. This event granted women of Saudi Arabia a much needed visibility at these times of serious challenges and transformations. This valuable award represents a recognition of women’s activism in a country where women face severe political restrictions of their rights.

Women in Saudi Arabia continue to struggle against a state-enforced guardianship system in laws and practices, that require women to obtain approval of their fathers, husbands or even sons to access basic rights and resources. The guardianship system renders women, regardless of their age, dependent on their male relatives and subject them therefore to various forms of abuse and manipulation by their guardians. Women need their male’s approval to get identification or travel documents, enroll in education, marry, divorce, work or travel. Women’s ability to challenge the existing laws and social norms are minimal due to the state’s restrictions on freedoms of assembly and expression.  In addition, the number of legal restrictions on women’s access to economic participation ranked Saudi Arabia at the worst place among 173 countries. Without adequate income, mobility, ability to make autonomous choices in their lives, women and their children become vulnerable for poverty, marginalization and gender-based violence. 

Nevertheless, amazing men and women have worked persistently to confront such challenges, and it is our shared journey that lead me here tonight.  My work and advocacy would never have been possible without the inspiration, wisdom, courage, perseverance, listening ears, bravery, love and creativity of these individuals. The women who lobbied for the rights to mobility, public participation, protection from violence, equal citizenship rights and the removal of the guardianship system. Men who re-interpreted religious edicts to counter the discriminatory state version, who emailed videos and writings of support, who helped in locating resources and solutions for at risk women, who shared the rules of the male-dominated playing ground with the women, and who supported us in our journey without thinking of the eminent risks.

I can never stand here without mentioning the resilience of my beloved women’s activists, who persistently challenge the discriminatory norms and laws despite being wildly outnumbered and seriously threatened; or the iconic bravery of the members of the association for civil and political rights, who are harshly punished for challenging the regime’s corruption and brutality; or my deep concern for the future and safety of my sisters’ children that drive my quest for a better world. You all gave me the courage and purpose to transform our country so that one day it will celebrate your bravery, integrity and equal worth. 



Remarks from Héctor Magnetto, CEO of Grupo Clarin, Argentina 

Palabras de agradecimiento

Hay muchas formas de agradecer este reconocimiento que me enorgullece y que quiero compartir con quienes trabajo todos los días.

There are many ways to thank all of you for this award, which makes me very proud and which I want to share with the people I work with every day.


Pero sólo hay una forma de aceptarlo: entendiendo que es un reconocimiento a la libertad de expresión, que no es una libertad más. Es el sustento de las sociedades democráticas.

But there is only one way to accept it: understanding that it is a recognition to freedom of expression, which it is not just other freedom. It’s the freedom that sustains a democratic society.


La libertad de expresión es un derecho básico y un freno a los totalitarismos.

Freedom of expression is a basic right and, as well as a brake to totalitarianisms.


Es una libertad primordial, porque nos permite cuestionar, disentir y cambiar. Por eso es la base de sociedades más abiertas y transparentes. Y la raíz de muchas otras libertades.

It is a fundamental freedom, because it allows us to question, to disagree and to change our minds. It is the basis of the most open and transparent societies. And the root of many other freedoms.


Sabemos además que es un valor que se construye día a día. Tenemos libertad de expresión cuando ejercemos la libertad de expresión.

We also know that it is a value that is built day by day. We have freedom of expression when we exercise freedom of expression.


A través de esta libertad, que también se materializa en los medios de comunicación, la gente hace oír sus ideales, sus quejas y sus frustraciones. Y el periodismo profesional es una herramienta para ayudar a expresarlos.

Through this freedom, which is also embodied in the media, people express their ideals, their complaints and frustrations. And professional journalism is a tool to help express all of them.


Nuestra pasión por el periodismo está potenciada hoy por la revolución digital y las redes sociales.

Today, our passion for journalism is enhanced by the digital revolution and the social networks.


La tecnología está cambiando el modo de circulación de algo que es muy valioso para las personas: el conocimiento. Los medios tenemos más herramientas que nunca para investigar, aunque también tenemos nuevos desafíos que provocan incertidumbres y reacomodamientos.

Technology is changing the way through which knowledge is trasmited. We, the media, have more tools than ever to investigate, but we also have new challenges that cause uncertainties and rearrangements.


La revolución tecnológica nos obliga a estar más activos, más cerca de la gente y aún más comprometidos con la libertad de expresión.

The technological revolution force us to be more active, closer to the people and even more committed to freedom of expression.


En la última década, la Argentina vivió un proyecto político que buscó perseguir la disidencia para concentrar el poder. Ese proyecto necesitaba silenciar las críticas y las denuncias. Por eso trató a los medios como enemigos, buscó asfixiarlos y desacreditarlos.

During the last decade, Argentina experienced a political process that sought to persecute those who thought differently and concentrate power in the hands of a few. That process required that the critics and the complaints to be silenced. So it treated the media as enemies, constantly trying to discredit it and suffocate it.


Los autoritarismos accionan de manera paradojal. En el nombre de la libertad de expresión atentan contra ella. Es un juego perverso que padecimos en mi país y que sigue asolando a otros de América Latina.

Authoritarian regimes proceed in a paradoxical way. In the name of freedom of expression, the threaten it. It is a perverse game that we suffered in my country and that continues to threaten others in Latin America.


El anti-periodismo del poder sólo podía ser desenmascarado con las armas genuinas del periodismo. Con la búsqueda profesional de la verdad. Nosotros tratamos de responder con más periodismo. Y gran parte de la sociedad argentina se sintió representada por él.

This anti-journalism of authoritarianism could only be unmasked with the genuine weapons of journalism. With the search for the truth. We try to respond to this threats with more journalism. And much of the Argentinean society felt represented by it.


Le dijimos que no a la sumisión que se nos trató de imponer y enfrentamos un durísimo acoso económico y judicial. Pero el ejercicio de la libertad editorial fue más fuerte que cualquier ataque y cualquier aparato de propaganda.

We said no to the submissiveness that they tried to impose us, and we had to face a tough economic and judicial harassment. But the exercise of editorial freedom was stronger than any attack and any propaganda apparatus.


Como hombre de medios, tengo claro que todos los días tenemos que trabajar para hacer mejor las cosas.

As a media businessman, I know very clearly that we have to work every day to make things better.


Y también, que si queremos seguir siendo lo que somos, no debemos aceptar que se nos diga qué decir ni cómo pensar.

And moreover, that if we want to continue to be who we are, we should not accept others to tell us what to say or how to think.


Ese es también, en definitiva, mi compromiso. Con la organización que represento, con lo que elegimos hacer y con la sociedad de la que somos parte.

That is, ultimately, my commitment. With the organization I represent, with what we choose to do, and with the society of which we are part.


A ellos, y a ustedes, muchísimas gracias.

To them, and to all of you, thank you very much.



Remarks from Ralph Büchi’ on behalf of Axel Springer SE

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The fact that the Axel Springer media group, on whose behalf I have the honor of speaking, has been presented the Leadership Award in the very year in which Freedom House celebrates the 75th anniversary of its foundation, is something we consider to be a very special honor.

One of the last anniversaries that we in Berlin celebrated was the commemoration of the one hundredth birthday of our founder Axel Springer in 2012.

We did this by ensuring that the whole year and all of our diverse activities were portrayed in a special way under his motto: the motto of FREEDOM.

The freedom of thought and action, the freedom of speech – and the freedom of the media!

How rare it is, unfortunately, for journalists, to be able to inform themselves freely, and then also to report freely on their research, was once again painful to observe at the beginning of this month in Turkey, where two editors of the daily newspaper "Cumhuriyet" were sentenced to prison as the result of a private (!) criminal charge filed by President Erdogan, simply because they had discovered that the Turkish Secret Service had been supplying weapons to jihadist groups in Syria and had then written about it.

Similar examples for an increase in restrictions, placed on the freedom of the media, can also be cited in a number of Eastern European countries where we have an important number of media offerings together with our Swiss joint venture partner Ringier, and where the situation has become more difficult in recent times under new nationalistic governments.

It has even become untenable for us in Russia where a new media law, since 2015, limits the shares held by foreign media investors to a small and irrelevant stake of 20 percent.

For us, as the publisher of the opinion-forming business magazine “Forbes Russia", this was simply not acceptable!

We have in the meantime, and after 10 years of engaged journalism, left this country, whose further economic development and liberalization we had once believed in.

This was all the more difficult for us as our Russian team had gone through many painful experiences and had lost a wonderful colleague in Paul Klebnikov there years before: Paul, then editor-in- chief of "Forbes Russia", was the victim of a brutal assassination in 2004 just in front of our publishing house in Moscow.

He seems to have been too critical and uncomfortable for certain circles in Russia..

“Uncomfortable” probably also describes the professional work of Jens Koch and Marcus Hellwig, two reporters from our weekly newspaper "Bild am Sonntag", who were held as  hostages in Iran from October 2010 to February 2011.

But nevertheless!

We at Axel Springer have never allowed ourselves to be intimidated by such attacks.

On the contrary: In 1967 our founder formulated the so-called Essentials for his company, to convey a concrete idea of his understanding of freedom to journalists working for him in Germany then.

At our last Management Summit, which we held in Paris this year out of solidarity with the victims of the terrorist attacks on the satirical magazine “Charlie Hebdo” and on the “Bataclan” concert hall in 2015, we adapted these guiding principles so that they can now provide orientation for all of our employees in our meanwhile internationally active media company.

The five individual elements of these guidelines are as follows:

  1. We stand up for freedom, the rule of law, democracy and a united Europe.
  2. We support the vital rights of the State of Israel.
  3. We demonstrate solidarity by sharing the liberal community of values with the United States of America.
  4. We reject political and religious extremism.
  5. We uphold the principles of a free and socially fair market economy.

Ultimately, we also see our common launch of "POLITICO Europe" in Brussels a year ago as a major contribution to the permanent shaping of political opinion in Europe.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Freedom House has presented the Axel Springer Publishing Group its Corporate Leadership Award. We are profoundly grateful for this award!

We accept it with humility – and we see it as an incentive:

For we know, that one is never completely assured of freedom.

We all have together to continually fight to preserve it!

Thank you very much.