Myanmar activists receive EU’s 2018 Schuman Award for Human Rights


Swe Win, Chief Editor of Myanmar Now online media, talks to police officers at the Myanmar Journalist Network (MJN) office in Yangon, Myanmar, 15 March 2017. Photo: Nyein Chan Naing/EPA

The European Union in Myanmar honoured Cheery Zahau, Ko Swe Win and Daw Khin Than Htwe with this year's Schuman Award for Human Rights, according to a statement. The three activists and human rights defenders received the award recognising their outstanding merits in promoting human rights and fundamental freedoms in Myanmar during an award ceremony at the residence of EU Ambassador Kristian Schmidt on 15 March 2018.

"Burma was among the “founding” nations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. Seventy years later human rights can still not be taken for granted – not in Myanmar, and not in many other parts of the world. Activists and journalists fighting for human rights and freedom of expression are the backbone of democracy," said EU Ambassador Schmidt at the Schuman Award ceremony in Yangon. "We need their courage to hold governments accountable, to put their fingers where it hurts. If change is what you want, and change is what you need, then a society must tolerate dissenting and critical voices."

Cheery Zahau, a human rights activist from Chin State, received the Schuman Award for her outstanding engagement for human rights, women participation and gender equality in her community and beyond.

Ko Swe Win, human rights activist and editor in chief of the news agency Myanmar Now, received the Schuman Award for his merits in uncovering human rights violations through his investigative journalism, and determined fight for freedom of expression in Myanmar.

Daw Khin Than Htwe, a women's rights defender from Mon State, received the Schuman Award for her exceptional achievements in supporting survivors of gender based violence and defending women's rights.  

EU Ambassador Schmidt also reminded of the two Reuters journalists, Ko Wa Lone and Ko Kyaw Soe Oo, who still remain under arrest facing trial for their investigations into human rights violations in Rakhine State. "Democracy dies a little every single day these two journalists spend in a prison cell, rather than in the newsroom," Ambassador Schmidt said.

The Schuman Awards honour and recognize the important work of Myanmar personalities in defending fundamental and universal values. They aim at raising public awareness and reinforcing the important messages the awardees send out in their communities. In 2018 – the year of the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – the awards are especially dedicated to activists and human rights defenders. The 2018 Schuman Awardees were selected by a committee of the ambassadors of EU member states accredited to Myanmar, from a long list of activists, social workers, journalists, lawyers and researchers who were nominated through a public call for nominations in February 2018.

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