For Immediate Release: October 26, 2011
New York City – Today, NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams will host Human Rights First’s star-studded Human Rights Awards dinner, honoring renowned Egyptian activist Basem Fathy and Pakistani journalist Shehrbano Taseer, as well as Michelle and Robert King, creators of CBS’s The Good Wife. Among the evening’s award presenters are The Good Wife’s Josh Charles and Academy Award-winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman. In addition, The Good Wife principle cast members Julianna Margulies, Chris Noth, Christine Baranski, and Archie Panjabi are scheduled to attend to celebrate the program’s selection. The group will bestow its Human Rights Awards and the Integrity in Entertainment award on the honorees during its annual award dinner in New York City
Human Rights First will recognize activist and blogger Fathy for his tireless work as an advocate for political freedom in Egypt, work he saw reach a crucial tipping point in January as Egyptian protestors filled Cairo’s Tahrir Square and eventually toppled the Mubarak regime. Prior to the historic Arab Spring, Fathy braved multiple detentions by the Mubarak regime for his role as co-founder of the April 6 Youth Movement. This groundbreaking group of activists used Facebook and SMS texting to organize protests in 2008, and event that was an important precursor to the uprisings this year.
When Fathy and his fellow Egyptians made history by occupying Tahrir Square, he helped coordinate logistics – providing food and tents, shields to protect protesters from attack by security forces, and vinegar to relieve the effects of tear gas. He stood shoulder to shoulder with the thousands of Egyptians he had helped to inspire, all of them standing up together to call for political freedom.
Human Rights First will honor Shehrbano Taseer, daughter of the assassinated Pakistani Governor Salmaan Taseer for her courage in carrying out her father’s legacy of religious tolerance. Despite criticism and even death threats, Taseer, a journalist for Newsweek Pakistan, has worked unremittingly to shed light on the hundreds of victims of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws and to encourage her government to take necessary steps to promote religious tolerance. In the months since her father’s slaying, Shehrbano has continued to speak out publicly against discriminatory laws that target religious minorities. She has published a series of op-ed pieces calling for change in Pakistan, and has openly criticized those who glorify her father’s murderer. She was instrumental in the United Nation Human Rights Council’s groundbreaking resolution that seeks to address violence, discrimination, and incitement to religious hatred without the controversial notion of “defamation of religions.”
“Human Rights First is proud to honor these activists who have stood up for political freedom and religious tolerance, often at great personal risk,” stated Human Rights First’s President and CEO Elisa Massimino. “Basem and Shehrbano are courageous leaders in their outspoken defense of rights in order to advance the freedom of their fellow citizens. We draw strength from their resolve and their example. We are privileged to work with them and to honor their courage and achievements with this award.”
For the first time, Human Rights First will award its Integrity in Entertainment Award, named in honor of acclaimed writer, producer, and director Sidney Lumet, to Michelle and Robert King, creators of The Good Wife. Their work was selected for its powerful exploration of human rights issues, including internet freedom and privacy, political asylum, torture, and human rights in China. Award-winning artist Jenny Holzer, best known for her large-scale public displays, including an installment currently at 7 World Trade Center, has designed the award.
Massimino has said, “Popular culture has incredible power, not just to entertain, but to inform, advocate, and inspire. The Good Wifehas used that power to confront some of the most difficult – and important – political and social questions of the day. We are proud to honor The Good Wife for its groundbreaking content, and for advancing the public’s understanding of human rights and the rule of law.”
For more than 20 years, Human Rights First has presented its annual human rights awards to courageous activists on the frontlines of the struggle for freedom. Former recipients include Julius Kaggwa from Uganda; Viktória Mohácsi from Hungary; Dr. Mudawi Ibrahim Adam from Darfur; Ludmilla Alexeeva from Russia; Helen Mack from Guatemala; Archbishop Pius Ncube from Zimbabwe; Saad Eddin Ibrahim from Egypt; Albie Sachs from South Africa; Hina Jalani from Pakistan; and Mary Robinson from Ireland.