Columbia Global Freedom of Expression Prizes
About the Prizes
Columbia University President Lee C. Bollinger created, in 2015, the first prizes recognizing judicial decisions and legal representation around the world that strengthen freedom of expression by promoting international legal norms. The prizes are awarded every two years by the Columbia Global Freedom of Expression initiative Bollinger established in 2014.
Columbia Global Freedom of Expression Prizes will be awarded, in two categories:
- Court Decision Category: the prize shall recognize a ruling or decision rendered anywhere in the world that has advanced or strengthened global understanding of international
standards of Freedom on Expression and Information. Preference shall be given to rulings and decisions rendered in the last 12 months, although older rulings and decisions may also be considered.
- Legal Service Category: the prize shall recognize a legal brief, legal amicus brief or legal defense anywhere internationally that has advanced or strengthened global understanding of and international norms of Freedom of Expression and Information. Preference shall be given to services rendered in the last 12 months, although older services may also be considered.
Eligibility and Selection Criteria
We welcome nominations, including self-nominations, from jurists and other legal experts, academics, and non-governmental organizations actively engaged in protecting freedom of expression. Nominees from around the world are eligible.
Prize winners will be selected based on the following criteria:
- The candidate’s judicial ruling, legal brief, or legal defense shall demonstrate sound legal reasoning and advance the legal understanding of the issues under consideration.
- The nominee’s judicial ruling, legal brief, or legal defense shall demonstrate a global understanding of freedom of expression. This will be evaluated based on appropriate laws, standards, policies, or decisions regarding freedom of expression and information that have been referenced in the nominee’s judicial ruling, legal brief, or legal defense.
- The judicial ruling or the nominee’s ruling, brief, or defense must offer significant protection to freedom of expression.
- All nominees shall have established a reputation for integrity and a commitment to human rights, rule of law, and legal excellence.
The prizes are to be judged by an independent panel of experts, in law, advocacy, journalism, and human rights, to be chaired by Bollinger. The Prize Committee members to date are:
- Lee C. Bollinger, President, Columbia University
- Catalina Botero, former Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Organization of American States’ Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
- Sir Nicolas Bratza, former President of the European Court of Human Rights
- Lydia Cacho, human rights defender, journalist, author
- Agnes Callamard, Director, Columbia Global Freedom of Expression, Columbia University
- Sarah Cleveland, Louis Henkin Professor of Human and Constitutional Rights; Member of the United Nations Human Rights Committee
- Irene Khan, Secretary General, International Development Law Organization
Columbia Global Freedom of Expression may invite additional experts to join the committee.
Past Prize Winners
For Excellence in Legal Services:
Professor Yaman Akdeniz, Assistant Professor Kerem Altiparmak and Attorney at Law Serkan Cengiz, Cengiz and Others v. Turkey
After an appeal made by Akdeniz, Altiparmak and Cengiz against the order of the Ankara Criminal Court of the First Instance blocking access to YouTube was rejected, they brought a successful action in the European Court of Human Rights challenging the decision on the ground that banning access to entire websites amounts to censorship in contravention of Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Cengiz, Akdeniz, and Altiparmak persuaded the ECtHR to recognize that victims of this kind of censorship include individuals who can legitimately claim that their right to receive and impart information and ideas have been affected even if they are not directly targeted, thus establishing broad user rights for further legal challenges.
For a Significant Legal Ruling:
Supreme Court of Norway, Rolfsen and Association of Norwegian Editors v. the Norwegian Prosecution Authority
In this case, the Supreme Court of Norway found unanimously for broad protection against exposure of journalistic sources even in the context of a government anti-terror investigation. In contrast to the widespread international tendency to sacrifice freedom of expression in times of crisis, this ruling recognizes the crucial importance of a free press.