On the occasion of World Press Freedom Day, 3 May, Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) and Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB) – along with numerous partners – will organise the ninth edition of the annual Difference Day event at Bozar. At its heart is the importance of press freedom and free speech worldwide, and the fight against the suppression of those freedoms in ever more places.On the eve of Difference Day, VUB and ULB award their annual Difference Day Honorary Title for Freedom of Expression. This year’s award goes to author and former president of PEN International Jennifer Clement and Indian journalist Ravish Kumar.
Ravish Kumar (1974) is an Indian journalist and media personality. He was the face of the independent news channel NDTV until he stepped down last year, when NDTV became one of the last independent media outlets to be taken over by a government-friendly tycoon. Under prime minister Modi, India is increasingly sliding towards an authoritarian state. Independent, serious journalism is under pressure as fake news, noisy debates and polarisation take over. By awarding the Honorary Title for Freedom of Expression to Ravish Kumar, the Brussels universities and their partners want to denounce this evolution in India, with its 1.4 billion inhabitants, while fully supporting critical and independent journalists
Jennifer Clement (1960) is an American-Mexican author of award-winning novels (including Prayers for the Stolen) as well as non-fiction titles,who has always fought fiercely for women’s rights, oppressed groups and freedom of expression. She lives and works in Mexico City. In 2015, she became the first female president of PEN International, a role she continued until 2021. Authors’ association PEN was founded in London more than a century ago, in 1921. It stands up for free speech and opposes any form of censorship, and today is active in more than 100 countries. VUB Fellow Alicja Gescinska is the chair of PEN Flanders. The Honorary Title for Freedom of Expression honours both the personal commitment of Jennifer Clement and PEN International’s unwavering commitment to freedom of expression and to threatened authors.
Previous recipients of the Difference Day Honorary Title for Freedom of Expression include Saudi blogger Raif Badawi (2015), the murdered Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia and her family (2018) and the Chinese convicted citizen journalist Zhang Zhan (2021). Last year, it was awarded to two organisations: the Belarusian Association of Journalists and The Fix.
Former VUB rector Caroline Pauwels (1964-2022) was at the heart of Difference Day, a major event at Bozar featuring debates, lectures and other multimedia activities dedicated to freedom of the press and freedom of expression. The event takes place to mark World Press Freedom Day on 3 May. The motto of Difference Day is: speak freely, listen respectfully, different opinions matter.
See the programme of Difference Day 2023.
The presentation of the Difference Day Honorary Title takes place during the European Gala Award Ceremony for Freedom of Expression, on Tuesday 2 May at 19.00 at Bozar, Ravensteinstraat 23, 1000 Brussels. To attend the ceremony or request an interview with Jennifer Clement or Ravish Kumar, please contact [email protected].
Difference Day is organised by Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Université libre de Bruxelles, Erasmushogeschool Brussel and Bozar, under the patronage of the European Parliament, with the support from Unesco, European Endowment for Democracy and other partners.