Nominations are now open for the 2016 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought! The prize is awarded to the individual or organisation that Members of the European Parliament believe has done the most for international human rights and fundamental freedoms. The award is named after Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov, who dedicated his life to fighting for civil liberties and reforms in the USSR.

Nominees are currently being put forward by the political groups in the European Parliament, and in October a shortlist of three finalists will be announced by the Foreign Affairs and Development committees. The winner will then be chosen by the President of the European Parliament, and the chairs of each of the political groups.

The prize comes with a monetary award of €50,000, as well as access to a network of MEPs and Sakharov Prize laureates working to promote and protect human rights worldwide. Several of the previous laureates have received the award whilst imprisoned or otherwise persecuted by authorities, so the raised media profile can also help to highlight abuses.

We had a comment sent in from Jorge on our Suggest a Debate page, asking who should win the 2016 Sakharov prize.

So, who should win the prize? We had a comment sent in from Carmela, arguing that Edward Snowden is the “Western Sakharov of the 21st century”. She thinks he should receive the Sakharov Prize from the European Parliament.

We recently spoke to Christophe Deloire, Secretary General of Reporters Sans Frontières / Reporters Without Borders, an organisation that won the Sakharov Prize in 2005. We asked him who he thought should win the award in 2016:

deloireI’m answering this question two days after a coup attempt in Turkey, but my answer would have been the same even if this had never happened. Reporters Sans Frontières believes that the prize should be awarded to Can Dündar, editor-in-chief of the Cumhuriyet newspaper in Turkey.

In November 2015, Reporters Sans Frontières awarded his newspaper the Press Freedom Prize in Strasbourg. In Dündar’s acceptance speech, he said that from his office window he can see a cemetery and courthouse; two places in Turkey where journalists enter all too often…

The prize should go to Dündar in recognition of his fight for democracy in Turkey. He was put in jail simply because his newspaper published a report of weapons delivered by the Turkish intelligence services to Islamist rebels in Northern Syria. That information was clearly in the public interest not just in Turkey, but also to anybody interested in the war in Syria. So, the situation in Turkey is so terrible, and Erdoğan is really giving in to such authoritarian behaviour, that we have really to defend Turkish democrats.

For another perspective, we also spoke to Ulrike Lunacek, an Austrian MEP and member of the Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance in the European Parliament. She is also a Vice-President of the European Parliament in charge of the Sakharov Network. We asked her, what is the impact of winning the Sakharov Prize?

lunacek-speaksWell, beyond the monetary impact, the prize has the even stronger impact of making people feel safer. I remember very well the case of Leyla Zana, a Kurdish politician in Turkey, who, when she received the Sakharov award in 1995, was in jail because of her political activities. She was in the European Parliament recently, and she told me that the prize, at that time, made her feel less alone in her struggle. And this is why the prize is given.

Also, the Saudi blogger who won the prize last year, Raif Badawi, is also in prison. He’s a young blogger who simply dared to say that all religions are equal, and that even being an atheist is okay. He also spoke up publicly for equal rights for women in Saudi Arabia. So, for him, it’s also a strong message of support from Europe that he’s not been forgotten, and that puts pressure on the Saudi regime to set him free.

My political group, the Greens / European Free Alliance, have proposed two Turkish activists to win the prize in 2016; Can Dündar, a journalist, and Esra Mungan, an academic. Mungan was arrested and placed in solitary confinement for ‘terrorist propaganda’ because she signed a peace petition, while Dündar was put on trial for being a traitor because he published something about illegal Turkish arms exports to Syrian rebels. Already these nominations make people think that it’s important to support activists who dare to speak up.

Who should win the 2016 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought? Who do you believe has done the most for freedom and human rights? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

IMAGE CREDITS: CC / Flickr – Dave DeSandro

118 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar
    Ivan Burrows


    David Cameron for calling a referendum on our membership of the antidemocratic EU. :)

    • avatar
      margarita soto

      Oh..Yes now you think that your democracy es better..such bigotry and lack of solidarity..better use your money to take care of your mouths..I mean a dentist..

    • avatar
      Jane Thomas

      He doesn’t know the meaning of human rights !

    • avatar

      Yeah because Cameron deserves/needs that money . . . . .

  2. avatar
    Marios Stamatiou

    Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of course, he is purging everyone that is against him so the ones that are with him have more freedom. Silly question, so obvious

  3. avatar
    Marios Stamatiou

    Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of course, he is purging everyone that is against him so the ones that are with him have more freedom. Silly question, so obvious

  4. avatar

    Only Greece and specifically the greeks who supported those thousands of immigrants despite all other european countries behaviour!

    • avatar
      Jane Thomas


    • avatar
      George Yiannitsiotis

      The three grand-mothers (autumn 2015) at Sykamia, Lesvos who signaled what human behavior means taking care and feeding a baby whilst his mother was taking a breath few minutes after landing on the island…

    • avatar
      Joe DeRoma

      Hands down! He has done more to expose the ruling cabals of Europe and the U.S. than anyone. We all owe him a deep amount of gratitude.

    • avatar
      margarita soto

      Pablo Iglesias has done nothing to deserve the price au contraire..he has benefitted from the governement of the esquilmated people from Venezuela…and the governement of Iran.

    • avatar
      Margarita Garcia

      Why please?

  5. avatar
    Stefania Portici

    il premio andrebbe dato al popolo italiano per aver sostenuto i popoli della UE ( economicamente , moralmente ) nonostante sappia come stanno le cose perchè la libertà di stampa , di impegno per mantenere la pace e le ingiustizie dentro e fuori la UE , è stata garantita da tanti uomini eroici cosa che non credo sia avvenuta negli altri Paesi , non in questo modo ma siamo stanchi, molto stanchi . Il premio non lo avremo mai perchè non siamo stati apprezzati ma lo portiamo nel petto a testa alta perchè solo noi sappiamo quanti sacrifici abbiamo fatto.

    • avatar
      Tarquin Farquhar

      @Stefania Portici
      I don’t know what Italy you live in but according to TI it is a very corrupt nation – add the Mafia and political ineptitude to the pot and one becomes bumfuzzled by your singular suggestion!

  6. avatar

    Erdogan. Such a nice guy.
    I’m glad is in the Nato and the EU is doing treaties with him.
    Also bruxelles. I find marvellous the way it cockblock the people of south europe and bring wealth only to the north. And remember the way it promote the illegal immigration of milions of people with no regards for their safety or the safety of the region those people sets in.
    And gladly europe is finally achieved to relieve the eu people from the burden of vote.

  7. avatar
    Andrew Lally

    The Irish Navy – the crew saved the lives of 10,000 refugees in the Mediterranean in just one year

  8. avatar
    Joe DeRoma

    Julian Assange and Wikileaks. He and his organization are revealing what the arrogant politicians do not want us to know. Establishment politics must end. In so many ways we have an open society and democracy in name only. Thanks to him we are finally learning the truth….

  9. avatar
    Lio Gonçalves

    Nigel icon of stupidity among Europeans…don’t follow donkeys, follow leaders…

    • avatar
      margarita soto


    • avatar

      Are people on the continent under the illusion that we voted for Farage? Just because he was right about brexit does NOT mean he’d be a good choice for a leader! Even a broken clock is right twice a day!

  10. avatar

    Greek fishermen, villagers, islanders. By far

    • avatar
      Jane Thomas

      But Greece tried

  11. avatar
    Eve Menelaou

    Bravo for supporting free thinkers that live among crowds its hard to debate among sheepy comfortable crowds and conform the status qvo and then having other individuals accusing you for not done enough.

  12. avatar
    Eugenia Serban

    Whose freedom ?? Whose rights ??

    For our freedom and our rights, nobody moved a finger, that s for sure.
    And we can feel the rights of the migrants from Middle East and Africa, they are LOUD and CLEAR

  13. avatar
    Danny Boy

    If as I suspect i’m scandalously overlooked again this year,I would hope that Donald Trump will win,and it will be well deserved,no one has done more to speak up for the rights of white supremacists and racists the world over.

  14. avatar
    J Manuel Fernandes Pereira

    Erdogan, ISSIS, AL-Queida, Boko Haram, Trump, EU, Maduro … Choose the one you like more and its your hero. Exist alot arrownd europe and the planet to choose and still those that dont give their face.

  15. avatar
    Robi Tekken III

    Greece and Italy for saving thousands of human being, while other EU Countries raise walls and close borders ..

    • avatar
      Jane Thomas


  16. avatar
    José Graça

    The Portuguese People, because they really fight alone, against the European Thecnocracy…

  17. avatar
    Jane Thomas

    Yes , Greece, of course as a nation, that extended the hand of friendship and humanity whilst the rest of Europe just closed the borders . The EU gave billions to Turkey whilst Greece in the midst of recession and austerity measures inflicted by the same EU gave the last crumbs from their plates . Ordinary people opened their doors and feed and housed families fleeing fir their lives and the rest of the World ….The world that had created the problem just looked on.

    • avatar
      Danny Boy

      What utter nonsense Jane,the Greeks didn’t welcome these migrants,they imposed themselves on the country.And the Greeks weren’t that bothered when the migrants were just passing through to the richer northern states,it’s only now that the other countries have had the good sense to close their borders that it as become Greece’s problem.Believe me if the Greek government could somehow make these migrants disappear they would do it.

  18. avatar

    Is 2016 over yet? Did they suspend the rest of the year? Lack of funds? Or Brussels imposed austerity?

  19. avatar
    Nando Aidos

    Is 2016 over yet? Did they suspend the rest of the year? Lack of funds? Or Brussels imposed austerity?

  20. avatar
    Sara Sarmento

    Well, none of these people in the comments who are defending liars, xenophobes and known offenders of human rights.

  21. avatar
    Zalan AlAhwazi

    The humanity is under the question.
    When the racism system still exist the human right doesn’t works
    By human rights they cannot make a business
    But by racism and terrorism business is running…

  22. avatar

    Whoever gets picked won’t be the person who deserves it most. It’s a tragedy of society that it’s the people with their boots on the ground who do all the work, put all the effort in and get no recognition for it. Having said that, no names jump out to me as having excelled in this field over the past year.

  23. avatar
    Domingos Correia

    I know who didn’t…that pig of Hungary, the brexit voters, the polish stall, Merkel, Schäuble, Daesh, Erdogan….

  24. avatar
    Regina Cunha

    Geert Wilder, Robert Spencer, Brigitte Gabriel, Pamella Geller, Bill Warner, Pat Condell, Raymond Ibrahim…

  25. avatar
    José Graça

    O Costa carago,que luta contra a xenofobia do Norte de Portugal e Europa…

  26. avatar

    O Coelho, a Maria Luis, o Relvas, o Djoerborn, o Jankauskas lituano e o maior nazi deles o sor Schauble.

    • avatar

      Britain voted for it’s own freedom, it hasn’t actually got that yet and it’s also self serving so I don’t think we can count that.

  27. avatar

    Angela Merkel, who still believe in human rights even if people want to hang her for that.

    • avatar

      I’d disagree. Merkel may have invited refugees from Syria into her country, but how many have moved in with her? When public opinion I her country shifted against her open door policy did she support the will of the people? No she did not. That’s not championing freedom or democracy. I’m not saying her heart was/is not in the right place. But to me people who would deserve credit in this field are the likes of Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Bob Marley, Nelson Mandela. I just don’t see Merkel on the list.

  28. avatar
    Sebastien Chopin

    Obviously Erdogan (complete nonsense), Brexiters(lies) and Kim (keeping up with his lineage) are out of the competition… as are all politicians… I would say the most democratic “stunt” in 2016 was in Iceland… when they took a third of their country on holiday to France… in June

  29. avatar
    Yannick Cornet

    I would say ‘Syrian refugees’. Because they certainly put the topic on the agenda, for better and for worse.

  30. avatar
    Kester Ratcliff

    Some ridiculous partisan nominations in the comments below the article.

    I guess it has to be an individual or corporate entity, not just a movement or network?

    Does anyone think that governments or NGOs would have even reported objectively on the systematic human rights abuses against refugees in Europe let alone improved some bits of it if it weren’t for the volunteers movement reporting from the front?

    Are You Syrious? news has done the most within the volunteer movement to make people aware of human rights abuses against refugees in and on the way to Europe.

  31. avatar
    Luchian Mdm

    Raif Badawi – for his speech against islamic supremacist made in their top reign – Saudi Arabia

  32. avatar
    Andy Ramirez

    Es importante el speech, para que las personas expresen lo que sienten y piensan. Evitar el resentimiento de guardarse sus opiniones. Aunque mas importante es lo que hacen. :)

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