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On Thursday 3 May 2018, the Tunisian journalist and human rights defender Sihem Bensedrine and the Burundian human rights activist Pierre Claver Mbonimpa will receive a joint honorary doctorate from the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) and the Univérsité libre de Bruxelles (ULB). The award ceremony of the honorary doctorates will take place in Bozar during Difference Day, the annual event on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day.

 

The theme of Difference Day 2018 is ‘Voices of Resistance’. The full programme is available at: www.differenceday.com/event/program/

 

VUB and ULB both played a role in the birth of Difference Day, and both universities are seizing the opportunity presented by its fourth edition on 3 May 2018 to award a joint honorary doctorate to two people who symbolize the fight for freedom of expression.

 

Sihem Bensedrine is a Tunisian journalist and human rights defender. Since June 2014, she has been President of the truth and reconciliation committee Instance Vérité & Dignité, which focuses on reconciliation in Tunisia after the democratic revolution that put an end to the dictatorship in the North African country. The Committee’s President Bensedrine has personally experienced the repression, but clearly states that the aim of the Committee is not revenge, but to record testimonials for history. “Tunisians are tolerant, but only if they know the truth.”

 

Bensedrine has already received many other international awards in recognition of her courage in defending and promoting press freedom. In 2012, Sihem Bensedrine received the Alison Des Forges Award from Human Rights Watch for her commitment to human rights.

 

Pierre Claver Mbonimpa is a Burundian human rights activist. In August 2001, he founded the Association Burundaise pour la Protection des Droits Humains et des Personnes Détenues (APRODH). Before that, he worked as a civil servant at the Ministry of Economy and Finance and subsequently as a police officer in the air and customs department. In this position, he was wrongly accused and arrested for illegal possession of a weapon. For two years, from 1994 until 1996, he was locked up in the Central Prison of Mpimba. During those two years of imprisonment, Mbonimpa was often subjected to beatings and torture. This terrible experience prompted him to found APRODH. Mbonimpa received many death threats and, on 3 August 2015, the human rights activist was shot in Bujumbura. A few days later, he arrived in Belgium for further medical treatment.

 

Since then he has lived in exile in our country. He has received several awards, including the Alison Des Forges Award from Human Rights Watch in 2016.

 

Daphne Caruana Galizia

On the eve of Difference Day, on Wednesday 2 May, VUB and ULB will also award the Difference Day Honorary Title for Freedom of Expression. This award goes to the family of Daphne Caruana Galizia, the Maltese investigative journalist who died in October last year when a bomb blew up her car. Daphne Caruana Galizia wrote a popular blog in which she investigated and challenged (political) corruption on the island.

Sihem Bensedrine, Doctor Honoris Causa VUB-ULB

Pierre Claver Mbonimpa, Doctor Honoris Causa VUB-ULB