Waleed Aly gets year’s top award for free speech

Fresh from his nomination for a Logie in next month’s awards, the commentator, academic, lawyer, presenter and rock musician Waleed Aly has been named as an Australian leader in free speech.

He will receive the Voltaire Award from the human rights group Liberty Victoria, given annually to the person or organisation making an outstanding contribution to free speech.

Announcing the award Liberty President George Georgiou SC said today: “There can be no doubting the clarity and the courage of Waleed Aly’s contributions to many areas crucial to public life in Australia.

“In a troubled and sometimes confused time he shines a sharp, unafraid light on subjects including terrorism and our treatment of refugees. The nation is better for his insights.”

Winner of the top journalism prize, the Walkley Award, for his columns, and a former AFL mascot, he is a host of Network Ten’s The Project.

The 37-year-old is the author of an award-winning book and many literary short-listings. He has written for newspapers such as The Guardian, The Australian, The Sunday Times of India, The Australian Financial Review, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. Waleed is a lecturer in politics at Monash University, at its Global Terrorism Research Centre. He is the guitarist and main songwriter for Melbourne originals band Robot Child.

Mr Georgiou said an example of Waleed’s commentary was this on Iraq: “the people of Mosul feel trapped. Unable to trust the Iraq government, and terrified of both American air strikes and Shia militias, they are more or less back where they were 18 months ago when ISIS rolled into town: sizing ISIS up as the least worst option.”

And on our refugees: “Among all the moral injuries we've inflicted on ourselves in this sordid area of politics – and there are many – the most overlooked is how adept we've become at lying to ourselves. One day, when the history of this period is written, it will be a story of how successive governments have legislated their lies.”

The Voltaire Award will be presented at a dinner in Melbourne on Saturday, 23 July.

Past winners include the jailed El Jazeera journalists Peter Greste, Baher Mohamed and Mohamed Fahmy, whistleblower Yu Shu Lipski, Wikileaks and Julian Assange, Get Up!, human rights activists Julian Burnside QC and Kate Durham, film critic Margaret Pomeranz, author Arnold Zable and journalists David Marr, Richard Ackland, Stephen Mayne and Chris Masters.