En francais: pour l’émouvant discours de Philippe Val, cliquez ici
GENEVA, May 17 – Geneva-based human rights group UN Watch awarded its prestigious annual human rights prize to Philippe Val, the French author, humorist, and former editor of Charlie Hebdo, “for having the courage to speak out when others were silent, defending democracy and the human right to live, think, and laugh.”
At a Geneva ceremony held on May 7, 2015, adjacent to the UN office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, before an audience of UN ambassadors, Swiss political leaders and community leaders, Mr. Val received the 2015 Morris B. Abram Human Rights Award, named after the civil rights advocate, diplomat and UN delegate who founded the watchdog NGO in 1993.
“Human rights defenders in dictatorships deserve awards more than I do,” said Val, however, “it’s hard to defend human rights in democracies as well.”
Vidéo: Philippe Val – Lauréat du Prix Morris Abram 2015 pour les droits de l’homme.
Over a career spanning four decades, most recently as the head of France Inter radio, Mr. Val has been a passionate and courageous defender of democracy and human rights. He co-founded the revived Charlie Hebdo in 1992 and served as its editor until 2009.
Defied Taboo to Defend Free Speech
In 2006, when he sensed that an anti-democratic climate of censorship was taking hold in Europe—that Western elites were surrendering to Islamic fundamentalism at home and aborad—Mr. Val decided to republish the Danish cartoons of Mohammed as an act of defiance.
Despite pressure from French President Jacques Chirac and a lawsuit by Islamic groups, Mr. Val fearlessly defended the right to challenge religious dogma against the newly emerging taboo.
Philippe Val is the author of numerous influential books on politics, society and culture, whose common theme is the defence of universal values in the French tradition of Voltaire and the Enlightenment.
Praise for Award to Val
The award to Mr. Val drew praise from leading French public figures:
Raphaël Enthoven, professor of philosopy at Sciences Po:
Few intellectuals deserve this award more than Philippe Val. This is a man who always thought contrary to himself (and contrary to his own camp).
By publishing cartoons of the prophet in 2006-2007, he allowed all of France to make the difference between caricature and disrespect, and between blasphemy and racism.
It is a brave man who, as Arendt says in The Crisis in Culture, sacrifices his life for the freedom of the world.
Caroline Fourest, journalist and author:
When so many asked us to close our eyes to fundamentalism and anti-Semitism, or to surrender to fear, Philippe Val and the Charlie Hebdo that he edited knew how to stay alert, awake and firm in defense of freedom of the press.
Prize Named After Courageous Anti-Racist
Morris B. Abram (1918-2000) worked closely with Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., winning key legal battles for the equal rights of African-Americans. Over three decades, Abram was a leading figure at the UN Commission on Human Rights, and at its Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights.
“It is fitting that we honor Philippe Val with a prize named after a human rights advocate who had the courage to stand with Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in the American South of the 1950s, when this was considered a heresy,” said Neuer.
Previous winners of the prestigious prize include Nobel Peace Prize Laureate David Trimble, Russian dissident and world chess champion Garry Kasparov, Dr. Massouda Jalal, the first woman in Afghanistan to run for president and to serve as Minister for Women’s Affairs, and Esther Mujawayo, an activist for victims of the genocide in Rwanda.
UN Watch is a non-governmental organization best known for bringing dissidents, human rights defenders and victims to testify before the United Nations, including most recently from China, Cuba, Egypt, Libya, North Korea, Syria, Sudan and Venezuela. Each year, together with 25 NGOs, UN Watch assembles top dissidents to spotlight the world’s most critical human rights issues at its annual Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy.