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Around 800 journalists, photographers and students took part in the second edition of Difference Day at Bozar on 3 May, to focus on the problems facing journalists in the world today. The highlight was the awarding of honorary titles for freedom of expression: to the Charlie Hebdo journalist and columnist Zineb El Rhazoui, currently in hiding, and to Djemila Benhabib, a writer and fierce opponent of Islamic politics.


Press and freedom: they seem to be two opposing concepts in the current world context, and yet the two are inextricably linked. It’s not an easy or thankful task to be a journalist today, but journalists are more necessary than ever. On Difference Day 2016, the participants enjoyed inspiring debates and lectures and heard entertaining and important stories.


The awards

Last year, the first VUB/ULB Difference Day honorary title for freedom of expression was given to Saudi blogger Raif Badawi. He was sentenced to a thousand lashes and – despite strong international protest – is still in prison. This year there were two awards, honouring Benhabib and El Rhazoui for their role in the protection and promotion of freedom of thought and expression in a changing democratic society. El Rhazoui – in permanent hiding for her own safety – was unable to attend, but the Brussels theatre-maker Sam Touzani received the prize on her behalf and read out a poignant letter from her. Benhabib, a writer of Algerian origin who lives in Quebec, gave a haunting speech about the danger of Islamic politics. She spoke emotionally about Algeria in the 1990s and the bloody terror of Islamic fundamentalism that killed thousands of Algerians. But she also spoke of today’s political Islam, which is a danger to our society, our freedoms, our civilisation. 


Read more about the winners here.


The Spanish cartoonist KAP won the Press Cartoon Europe Award. Some of his artworks are shown below, at the end of the article.

Djemila Benhabib en Sam Touzani met hun Difference Day Honorary Title for Freedom of Expression. Touzani nam de prijs in ontvangst voor Zineb El Rhazoui van Charlie Hebdo. 

On average, one journalist is killed every five days. This is simply intolerable.
Caroline Hammarberg, UNESCO

The debates 

The first debates looked at female journalists in Turkey. Speaker Sedef Kabaş – a journalist in Turkey – was unable to attend she had to submit to questioning over something she posted on Twitter. Point proven. The debate Media (Un)censored was over before it had begun. The remaining speakers discussed the situation for both male and female journalists in contemporary Turkey. The problems are legion, the solutions not easy to find.



EU Media, Censorship & Propaganda was another engaging debate, about the role of a journalist and the difficulty of external influences. Many journalists in Europe are not free to publish objective reporting. They must take into account governments, stakeholders, advertisers, management and political parties. The consensus? A journalist shouldn’t be afraid of the consequences of their job.


Translators in flight

The third debate, World Wide Worries About Free Reporting, featured personal stories from the speakers, who try to do their jobs in harrowing circumstances. Like Rudi Vranckx, who has lost translators in Egypt and Syria. Translators are forced to flee, locked up, even killed. Melody Patry spoke about other problems, such as the huge impact of social media on journalists. World Wide Worries aplenty.



“Mainstream media are in a state of crisis, both in credibility and business model.” The final debate covered mass media, which limits journalists in their search for the truth, and the framing of photos. Photographer Jimmy Kets had no answer for how the public can know if photos have been taken in the right context. The debate Looking for Trouble focused on lots of problems, but solutions are hard to find.

Live Magazine

De naam verraadt het al: Live Magazine laat auteurs, journalisten, fotografen en andere artiesten aan het woord. Ze vertellen elk hun verhaal voor de eerste en ook laatste keer. Zo was er ‘Kim & the Chocolate Factory’, waarbij een journalist en een fotograaf vertellen hoe ze onder het mom van ‘Belgische chocolademakers’ Noord-Korea binnenslipten. Of In Koli Jean Bofane, die tijdens het Mobutu-regime clandestien politieke strips maakte, printte en verkocht. De verhalen waren indrukwekkend en soms zenuwslopend, de begeleidende live muziek deed er nog een schepje bovenop.

Fototentoonstelling van Amnesty International.

Ook onze kersverse rector-elect en hoofd van iMinds Caroline Pauwels was van de partij.

Geen journalisten zonder koffie.

Vlaams minister van Cultuur, Jeugd, Media en Brussel.

Cartoonist KAP en een van zijn creaties.

Een tweede cartoon van KAP.

'Il y a des malentendus et des malentendants. Et des malentendants créent des malentendus. - Sam Touzani