International Free Speech and Human Rights Conference
Brussels, 9 July 2012
In order to further promote the effort to protect our civil liberties and reward pioneering efforts in the field, ICLA has created the annual “Defender of Freedom Award.”
The name of the Award comes from the need to recognize the genuine courage that – unfortunately – is usually required to defend natural and humanitarian issues such as individual freedom. Today, as in earlier times, secular and religious authorities are giving in to the temptation to limit or revoke those rights of citizens that should be self-evident. While it is commonly known that individuals speaking truth to power often face court cases or physical assaults, other consequences are less commonly known, such as loss of job opportunities, social exclusion and public condemnation. These are frequent problems for those who tell the “politically incorrect” truth and dare to spell out their opinions on such matters.
The struggle against totalitarian systems that oppose individual freedoms must never cease. There will always be powers with vested interests in silencing free expression and limiting the liberties of the people. Those who take on this duty to preserve freedom will need patience, a readiness to face threats, violence and court cases, and to suffer social rejection, career restrictions, and widespread public slander.
As a defender of civil liberties, ICLA considers it an important and honourable task to recognize and reward individuals who courageously take up the eternal fight for freedom. It is individuals like these who throughout history have given hope and encouragement to others to join this fight. Without the freedom fighters of the past and of the present, medieval forces in the shapes of anti-democratic tyrants, barbarous religious laws and their executors would be our masters even today.
The fearless defenders of freedom are guiding lights and sources of courage and enlightenment, when the shadows of darker powers fall upon our societies. These defenders remind us what we would lose if genuine freedom were to be sacrificed for vague promises of ‘peace’ and ‘security’. These persons show us that we have the right to resist the imposition of special rights granted to some religious groups at the expense of everyone else. Future generations who live free lives will be able to thank them, if current generations join them in guaranteeing liberty for all.
ICLA will award the Defender of Freedom Award to these individuals each year, so that they may be recognized in their own time.