Chief editor of the privately owned Al-Bedaiah news website and former board member of the Journalists Syndicate Khaled al-Balshy won the 2017 Individual Activist award of the Nelson Mandela – Graca Machel Innovation Awards on Monday.
The award is granted by Civicus, an organization located in Johannesburg and which operates in 145 countries around the world, that works “to strengthen citizen action and civil society throughout the world,” according to its website. It began granting the awards named after Nelson Mandela and his wife Graça Machel in 2005, awarding prizes for those “who have demonstrated remarkable courage and commitment in the pursuit of social change.”
The organization cited Balshy’s founding of the Front to Defend Journalists and the Rights of Citizens, which has assisted in the release of a number of jailed journalists in Egypt. The award website said Balsh has “boldly and relentlessly pursued the cause of free speech, despite facing personal judicial and online harassment.”
Balshy was handed a year-long suspended sentence last March, alongside Yehia Qallash, the former head of Egypt’s Journalists’ Syndicate, and Gamal Abdel Rehim, a syndicate board member, after being charged with “harboring fugitives.”
Balshy said on his Facebook page that the award was won by “all defenders of freedom of the press in Egypt, and those who are paying the price for their vision,” adding that this is “a message to all jailed journalists (Hesham Gaafar, Ismail Alexandrani, Omar Abdel Maqsoud, and all who are paying a price for practicing their job) and their voices are still able to pierce the prison walls.”