The “Protestors on Eagle Bridge” win the “Human of the Year” 2012 Award

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The Association of European Journalists – Bulgaria, Toma Belev, Rosen Bosev, Radoslav Stoyanov, Spas Spasov and Bivol are among the others honoured in BHC’s annual awards recognizing the contribution to human rights and rights protection

The Protestors on Eagle Bridge were honoured with the first prize “Human of the Year” 2012 in the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee’s (BHC) annual awards recognizing the contribution to human rights and rights protection.

The awards were announced today, December 10th, the International Human Rights Day, at an official ceremony in Sofia.

“The protestors on Eagle Bridge are the “Human” this year. We recognize their outstanding ability to mobilize against a government that abuses not only its public power through private interests, but also its sovereign – the citizens, by allowing itself to take political and legislative decisions on behalf of their name and not in their interest. In such a way the government distorts the very basis of representative democracy – the approval of laws through parliament by us - the people,” said Margarita Ilieva, Attorney-at-law, Director of the Legal Defence Programme at BHC and Chairwoman of the Human of the Year award jury, at the ceremony.

“The individual protestor on Eagle Bridge showed to this dishonest government, that the Law is not their toy – an instrument for trade with the rich, but our pillar against the creation of a political system for the exploitation of the common goods for a minority of institutionally and financially empowered players, lacking any kind of moral respect for the legal order – at the expense of us all. The protestor on Eagle Bridge reminded the self-forgotten and arrogant, unpunished, temporary inhabitants of our institutions, that the power flows from us,” added Margarita Ilieva.

Besides the first prize “Human of the Year,” the jury presented two runner-up and three special awards.

The Association for European Journalists – Bulgaria and Toma Belev were honoured with the two runner-up awards.

The activity of the Association of the European Journalists (AEJ) – Bulgaria acts in defence of the freedom of expression, media independence and our right, as citizens, to receive information, that is untainted, not manipulated and serves us and the public interest and not private, political or corporate interests of certain individuals. The association has implemented a number of initiatives in the name of professional journalism, including a platform for data collection for the needs of investigative journalism and civil society projects. Every month, the association publishes a ranking for quality and non-professional journalism. In 2012, AEJ repeatedly signalled for unethical behaviour, inciting interethnic hatred and discrimination, as well as threats and pressure on journalists.

Toma Belev was the Director of the Vitosha Nature Park until February 2012, when he was removed from his post due to political and financial interests. The leading Bulgarian nature conservationist is one of the leading members of the coalition Let Nature Remain in Bulgaria, which encompasses nearly 50 non-governmental organizations and civil society groups, who are fighting against the threats to protected territories in the country. After his removal, Belev has risen as a natural leader in the green movement, a leading factor in the fight for the protection of Bulgarian nature, one of the strongest and most compelling voices in the debate surrounding the Forest Act.

The Bulgarian Helsinki Committee and the “Human of the Year” 2012 jury presented three special awards:

Rosen Bosev took the prize for overall contribution to the protection and promotion of human rights in Bulgaria. Rosen Bosev is part of the team at the weekly newspaper Capital since 2005. He was distinguished for this large array of outstanding texts, dedicated to the problems of the judicial system, rule of law and human rights in a democracy. He has been honoured three times with the Access to Information Programme Award for using the Access to Public Information Act.

Spas Spasov took home the special award for journalistic courage. Spasov is a correspondent for daily online edition Dnevnik and weekly print Capital in Varna. He is the author of numerous journalistic articles against racism that are important for the public interest. This year he sent a signal to the Prosecutor General of the Republic of Bulgaria for the racist verbal abuse in the article “Боклуци“[1] by Kevork Kevorkian, stating that “the silence that follows such texts is full of concern, humiliation and is dangerous…and that sooner or later this silence will bury us.” Spasov is also the journalist that published consistent and critical work concerning the “First Alley,” for which he was threatened by the interest group TIM. Nevertheless, Spas never gave in and continued writing critiques like a true journalist.

(The members of the “Human of the Year” 2012 jury, who work at Economedia abstained from participation and voting during the review of the last two nominations.)

Radoslav Stoyanov was named Activist of the Year. He actively used legal methods to defend the right of freedom of presence for non-heterosexual people in society – without harassment, without violence, without inciting hatred or discrimination. Stoyanov is a true human rights activist, who expresses solidarity for all the underprivileged in society and his activeness does not focus only on the rights of the gay community. In recent years, he participated as an initiator of over 10 cases for the public interest, against hate speech and other discrimination. What is more important, he is winning these cases with which he is contributing to generating a progressive, teleological case practice on the right to equality and social inclusion.

The winner of the Audience Award, which is the nominee that received the highest number of votes during the online voting competition through the site humanoftheyear.org, was also announced at the ceremony. The winner is the independent website for investigative journalism Bivol. The website was nominated “for the efforts of its authors in recognizing the exotic for the government principle of the rule of law, the fight against corruption and the active promotion of the independent civil society position.” During the voting competition, they received 1200 votes.

During the ceremony, the jury also awarded two certificates. The first one is “For Personal and Advocator’s Courage” and was awarded to Boyana Petkova, who one month after losing Mary, her second daughter, led the campaign for the amendment of the absurd and cruel provisions of the current Bulgarian legislation, according to which stillborn babies are treated as “biological waste” and are burned along with the other hospital waste. The second certificate, “Defenders of the Most Vulnerable” is for Susanna Musser and Attorney-at-law Toni Vladimirova – two women, dedicated to the fight for the welfare of children with disabilities that are living in institutions. They were recognized for their persistence in engaging the institutions, responsible for controlling other institutions, actively popularizing the right to happiness and development of abandoned children with special needs and working with devotion in hope that these children will find a home and love from real adoptive parents.

The “Human of the Year” are a symbolic token for the recognition of rights activism and there is no prize money associated with the awards.

Like every year, in 2012 anyone was able to nominate a person, group or organization on the basis of the publically announced criteria. The approved nominations where 32. The sought after deeds had to be (alternatively) of particular potential, a precedent in the human rights sphere, original and creative. The number of votes for the Audience Award was nearly 7500. The total number of visits on the humanoftheyear.org website and the Facebook profile pages for 2012 amounted to more than 183 000 (in contrast to 150 000 for last year and 15 000 in 2009).

You can find all nominees with their full profiles on humanoftheyear.org.

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The initiative was funded by the Oak Foundation and Open Society Institute – Budapest. BHC wants to thank Club Studio 5, Marvin winery, Devin and its media partners: Mediapool, Svejo.Net, Dir.bg, Videlina as well as all the other organizations and people, who popularized and supported the awards.



[1] „Боклуци“ is translated as garbage.