„Raif Badawi just moved from a small prison to a larger one”
As part of the 2023 Frankfurt Book Fair, the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom, in cooperation with the German Publishers and Booksellers Association, once again hosted the Raif Badawi Talk. With the talk, the Foundation not only commemorates the fate of the blogger Raif Badawi, but also wants to remind of the difficult situation for journalists worldwide. Under this year’s motto "Women.Press.Freedom." not only Ensaf Haidar, Raif Badawi's wife, but two strong female voices had their say on the panel - Nevsin Mengü (Turkish journalist), and Wazhma Tokhi (Afghan publicist and activist).
Raif Badawi is Saudi Arabia's best-known liberal Internet activist. He founded the online forum "Free Saudi Liberals" and was sentenced to 10 years in prison, 1,000 lashes and a fine of 1,000,000 Saudi Rial for his activities as a blogger and activist. He was released from prison last year (2022), but still did not fully regain his freedom. As his wife Ensaf Haidar impressively reported in her foreword, Raif Badawi has merely "moved from a small prison to a larger one." After his release, he is still banned from traveling or blogging on the internet for 10 more years. This means that he will not have seen his children and wife for a total of 20 years if his situation does not change. Haidar recalled that while the political situation in Saudi Arabia is currently changing, unfortunately the situation for Raif Badawi is not.
Several speeches stressed the importance of the freedom of press and the freedom of expression, especially in times of conflict. Anne Brasseur, member of the board of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom, reminded the audience that there was no difference between "traditional" and "Western" values. With this distinction, autocratic rulers around the world tried to justify their actions to restrict freedom of the press and freedom of expression. As Brasseur pointed out, no such distinction exists in the name of human rights. Human rights are based on universal values. In his video message, Constantin Schreiber, the well-known journalist, "tagesschau" anchor and co-founder of the Raif Badawi Award, emphasized that in Germany and around the world we must always be aware of the importance of freedom of expression and freedom of the press. Especially women who raise their critical voices are often victims and are being silenced, while they contribute a lot to the improvement of the future.