Ukraine’s Gwara Media Wins William D. Zabel Award

NEW YORK — Human Rights First announced today that Gwara Media will be presented with the William D. Zabel Human Rights Award in recognition of its dedication to countering disinformation during Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

“Our media platform underwent a profound transformation to endure the relentless Russian assaults on Kharkiv and Kharkiv region, said Serhii Prokopenko, managing editor of Gwara Media. “The esteemed Zabel Award reminds us that our commitment to journalism must persist despite our numerous challenges and pressures. Reporting from the frontlines must remain steadfast, and we must keep amplifying the voices of local communities. Furthermore, we aspire to bring greater visibility to Russian human rights violations and the immense suffering endured by people in our area for the international community.”

The award, presented annually for more than three decades, acknowledges the work of courageous activists on the frontlines of the struggle for freedom and human rights.

“There is clear alignment between Gwara Media’s mission and that of Human Rights First,” said Michael Breen, president and CEO of Human Rights First. “Presenting the Zabel Human Rights Award to Gwara Media gives us the opportunity to underscore the organization’s vital role in defending truth and human rights in the face of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.  After connecting with Gwara when I traveled to Kharkiv, my respect for their work and their commitment is boundless.”

Founded as an independent Ukrainian media platform, Gwara Media has since the full-scale invasion of Ukraine focused on revealing Russian war crimes to wider audiences, reporting on the recovery of Ukrainian communities, and providing a voice to young activists and artists in Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, where Gwara is based.

At the beginning of the conflict, Gwara created a fact-checking bot called Perevirka that audiences could use to verify the veracity of news. They are now members of the International Fact Checking Network, and have made the countering of misinformation central to their work.

Human Rights First has worked closely with Gwara Media, especially when Breen and our senior advisor Brian Dooley have visited the Kharkiv Oblast.

Each year, the William D. Zabel Human Rights Award is presented to a human rights leader or organization that is distinguished in the advancement of rights, justice, and equality for those suffering persecution or violations of their rights. The 2023 award will be officially presented to Gwara Media at Human Rights First’s awards celebration taking place on October 17 at Cipriani 25 Broadway in New York City. A short documentary on the work of Gwara Media will accompany the presentation of the Zabel award.

Recent Zabel Award recipients include Grupa Granica, which responds to the human rights crisis at the Polish-Belarus border; Karapatan, a Philippines-based alliance of human rights organizations; ALQST for Human Rights, which monitors and documents human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia; and Miroslava Cerpas Hernández, who promotes the rights of migrants and refugees displaced by violence in Honduras.

Human Rights First has also presented the award to Friar Tomás González, who protects vulnerable migrants on the Mexican border; Yazidi human rights activists Khaleel Aldakhi and Ameena Saeed Hasan; European antisemitism activists Jane Braden-Golay, Siavosh Derakhti, and Niddal El-Jabri; Dr. Denis Mukwege of the Democratic Republic of Congo, who later went on to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize; and human rights lawyer Chen Guangcheng of China.


Published on September 21, 2023


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