By Marivir R. Montebon
New York – Cebu artist Maria Victoria ‘Bambi’ Beltran received Freedom of Speech award from the Deutsche Welle Freedom of Speech Award 2020 which is dedicated to courageous journalists “who are suffering repression because of their reporting on the COVID19 pandemic.”
Beltran is one of the 17 laureates from 14 countries which the DW, a German international media organization, had identified. She was arrested on April 19, 2020 for her satirical post on Facebook in relation to the rising number of COVID19 cases in Cebu City, Philippines.
“When I was arrested by the police in the dark hours of midnight, interrogated, tied to a chair like a dog most of the time, and held incommunicado for 16 hours, I never felt so alone in my life. Being among the Freedom of Speech Laureates of Deutsche Welle, in stark contrast, makes me feel one with the countless people in the world that believe and practice their freedom of speech in difficult circumstances,” she said in an interview by OSM!.
Beltran, an artist, poet, and entrepreneur in Cebu, is facing cybercrime charges and is currently out on bail. She said she will file counter-charges for illegal arrest and detention and endangerment of health while in prison at the time of the pandemic.
“I believe this is a message to all Filipinos and to everyone that the freedom of speech is one of the first generations of human rights and it should be held sacred, and no authority should be allowed to take it away from us. We should hold on to what we have now and protect it with all that we have. I hope Filipinos exercising their freedom of speech will multiply and that this will affect change in a society ravaged by a complete disrespect of human rights,” she added.
The Deutsche Welle Freedom of Speech Award began in 2015 and is given to persons and initiatives at human rights and freedom of expression in media. The other laureates are: Ana Lalic of Serbia, Blaz Zgaga of Slovenia, Sergej Sazuk of Belarus, Elena Milashina of Russia, Darvison Rojas of Venezuela, Mohammad Mosaed of Iran, Beatific Gumbwanda of Zimbabwe, David Musisi Karyankolo of Uganda, Nurcan Baysal of Turkey, Ismet Cigit of Turkey, Fares Sayegh of Jordan, Siddharth Varadarajan of India, Sovann Rithy of Cambodia, Chen Qiushi of China, Li Zehua of China, and Fang Bin of China.