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Cecilia Cervin’s speech to Anna Roxvall

Anna Roxvall!

It is a great honor to congratulate you on the Robespierre Award today, and in addition to the award justification to introduce you a little closer.

For those who do not know you that well yet, it can be mentioned that you have worked, and work with a former Robespierre Prize laureate, Martin Schibbye and with the photographer Johan Persson. It was planned that it was you who would travel to Ogaden that time, but other things got in the way for you.

To stand on the side of the weak against the power – that is the attitude to life that we in the Jan Myrdal Society have used to call the refractory, the unruly. It is a respectable and necessary attitude to life. But it is quite simple and natural as long as it is “just” about words, here in our “tolerant” Sweden. It’s so easy to talk, as long as you don’t risk anything.

Not because the words are unimportant – on the contrary. The power of real words is enormous. “Only the real words / the words with crown and birdsong …” No in this context we rather talk about “the words with strength and resilience.”

You have the words in your power and use them publicly with great success. Your articles and other writings are knowledgeable, informative and poignant. You write about things that we others in our ignorance do not know so much about, about countries and conditions that easily get lost in the public debate.

A now almost forgotten Swedish poet once wrote about the author’s duty and desire to be an “interpreter for the silent who don’t speak / don’t speak but only suffer”.

That is a big task. A poet you are not – thank God, even if poetry too can certainly have its tasks. But such an interpreter as Fröding wanted to be, you are. You give powerful words to those no one listens to.

Time is not enough for lengthy explications, so I will give just a few examples of your efforts. You were one of the first to deal with the great refugee disaster in the fall of 2015. And you did not only write about the terrible and dangerous journeys across the Mediterranean, but also about the refugees’ awful life in the overcrowded Greek camps. For it was not – and is not – prosperous Sweden, but Greece already impoverished by capitalism, which had to receive the great onrush.

Not long ago you received the Nils Horner Prize with the justification; “because she/you report confidently, stubbornly and passionately from the forgotten areas of the foreign media coverage”.

The conflict in Ukraine has indeed been on the agenda, but mostly as part of the major political game. Sure – that discussion must be held. But what you have done is more: you have met and seen the civilian population affected by politics. You have visited overcrowded shelters, freezing, damp and – to put it mildly – not very safe. You have given a voice to the people who are forced to live there.

You have seen conflicts, which are rarely noticed in the daily noise. Burundi, the country squeezed between the wars, and with conflicts of its own, you have travelled in, seen and talked with the people, the civilian population, which always suffers most when the powerful are fighting, and the journalists who risk being silenced.

And these are just a few examples of your efforts.

You are a worthy recipient of the Robespierre Prize, which is set up to encourage the young unruly, the refractory, to continue on their beaten path: against the power and for the weak.

We who lack both your courage and your strength, we old people, who can no longer do anything, we thank you!

Thanks Anna! And heartfelt congratulations! May you continue your important work!