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2021 Václav Havel Prize awarded to Belarusian opposition leader Maria Kalesnikava

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The ninth Václav Havel Human Rights Prize – which honours outstanding civil society action in defence of human rights – has been awarded to Belarusian opposition leader and activist Maria Kalesnikava (pictured).

The €60,000 prize was presented at a special ceremony on the opening day of the autumn plenary session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) in Strasbourg.

Maria Kalesnikava is one of the opposition leaders in Belarus and a member of the Co-ordination Council. She was the head of the campaign headquarters of former presidential nominee Viktar Babaryka, and has become one of the three female symbols of the Belarusian opposition and the struggle of the people of Belarus for civil and political liberties and fundamental rights.

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She was abducted in Minsk in September 2020 and made headlines when she tore up her passport at the border to prevent her forced removal and exile from Belarus. She was subsequently detained, and in September 2021 was sentenced to 11 years in prison for her political activity.

Accepting the award on her behalf, Maria’s sister Tatsiana Khomich thanked the award committee and said her sister would want to dedicate her win to all those in Belarus fighting for their rights: “This award is a sign of solidarity of the entire democratic world with the people of Belarus. It is also a sign to us, Belarusians, that the international community supports us, and that we are on the right track.”

Presenting the award, PACE President Rik Daems, who chaired the selection panel, said: “In standing up against a regime which has chosen force and brutality against peaceful and legitimate protest, Ms Kalesnikava showed that she is ready to risk her own safety for a cause greater than herself – she has shown true courage.”

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Commission announces winners of Megalizzi-Niedzielski prize 2021 for aspiring journalists and launches a new call for proposals

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The Commission has announced the winners of the 2021 Megalizzi-Niedzielski prize for aspiring journalists: Irene Barahona Fernández from Spain and Jack Ryan from Ireland. Irene and Jack received the prize for their promising work, dedication to quality journalism and attachment to EU values. Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms, Elisa Ferreira, said: “We are glad to see that European young journalists are full of energy and show interest in the EU.Once again, during the Covid crisis, we have seen the importance of accurate and informative media. A free press, like all the institutions of democracy, must not be taken for granted; we must water the plant of democracy if we want it to continue to benefit from its fruit. It is important to think of the future of journalism, and to support and nurture young journalists. That is why we have launched another round of support for media.” During the awards ceremony, the Commission has launched the 5th call for proposals supporting information measures relating to EU Cohesion policy, with an overall budget of €7 million. Media, as well as universities, communication agencies and other private entities and public bodies are invited to submit their proposals for editorially independent reporting on Cohesion policy. The Commission will cover 80% of the cost of the projects, with grants up to €300,000 for selected beneficiaries. The deadline for application is 11 January 2022. The Megalizzi – Niedzielski prize for aspiring journalists was launched in 2019 and honours the memory of Antonio Megalizzi and Bartek Pedro Orent-Niedzielski, young European journalists with strong attachment to the EU and its values, who lost their lives after a terrorist attack in Strasbourg in late 2018. Examples of communication actions of previous beneficiaries can be found on this interactive map.

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Honouring courage in journalism: Apply for the 2021 Lorenzo Natali Media Prize until 19 April

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Applications opened on 1 March for one of the world's leading journalism awards - the Lorenzo Natali Media Prize. Backed by the European Commission, the prize honours journalists from around the world for their courageous reporting and for their stories about people and the planet that highlight some of today's biggest challenges and inspiring solutions that address them. To mark the launch of the 2021 edition, International Partnerships Commissioner Jutta Urpilainen said: “The European Union stands for freedom of expression, in Europe and around the world. Through the Lorenzo Natali Media Prize, we recognise journalists who have dared, often at great personal risk, to report the facts and tell the stories shedding light on issues like injustice, inequality, and environmental degradation. Stories that showcase the inspiring ways in which people are responding. If you are a journalist who has told just this story in the past year, I encourage you to apply.”

The closing date for entries is 19 April 2021. The winners will be awarded with €10,000. For more details, please consult the press release and the Lorenzo Natali Media Prize website.

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Four #MEDIA films will compete for #GoldenLion at #VeniceFilmFestival

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The 76th Venice Film Festival started on 28 August, featuring 12 films supported by the MEDIA programme – the EU's programme for supporting the European film and audiovisual industries. Four of the MEDIA-supported films have additionally been shortlisted to compete for the Golden Lion: The Truth by Hirokazu Kore-eda (France, Japan), About Endlessness by Roy Andersson (Sweden, Germany, Norway), Martin Eden by Pietro Marcello (Italy, France) and The Painted Bird by Václav Marhoul (Czech Republic, Ukraine, Slovakia). The Orizzonti competition that is dedicated to latest aesthetic and expressive trends in international cinema will feature MEDIA-supported Blanco en blanco by Theo Court (Spain, Chile, France, Germany) and Madre by Rodrigo Sorogoyen (Spain, France).

The film Effetti Domino by Alessandro Rosseto (Italy) will be screened in the Sconfini section that is dedicated to art-house and genre movies, experimental and artists' films. Five more films supported by MEDIA will participate in the independent sections Giornate degli Autori as well as in the Venice International Film Critics Week held in parallel to the festival. At the sidelines of the festival, the European Commission will also organize on Saturday (31 August) the European Film Forum. Further details on the MEDIA-supported films at the Venice Film Festival are available here, the MEDIA programme here and on the European Film Forum here. More information on the Commission's support for the audiovisual and creative sectors in 2020 is available here.

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