Journalism without fear or favour

Tuesday, April 28, 2020 — “Freedom of the press and freedom of speech are too important to cancel Difference Day, precisely because of the current Covid-19 situation,” says VUB rector Caroline Pauwels. Difference Day will take place on Sunday 3 May, but it will be entirely digital. Journalism without fear or favour is the theme. This year’s Honorary Titles for Freedom of Expression will go to the Turkish writer Ahmet Altan and the Turkish women’s rights activist and writer Elif Shafak. The programme can be followed live online from 17.00 at

This is the sixth edition of Difference Day. This year’s theme is ‘Journalism without fear or favour’, with special attention for uncertain times, such as the current coronavirus crisis.

Journalism continues to come under pressure from politicians, lobby groups and other influential bodies that try to restrict, direct or intimidate the media. That is why journalism in society is more important than ever, and why more and more actions are being taken to support independent journalism.

This independence is therefore the theme of this year’s Difference Day: journalists should not be afraid to do their job, nor should they be forced to grant favours to anyone.

Prize for freedom of expression

Every year, the Difference Day Honorary Title for Freedom of Expression is awarded by the Brussels universities VUB and ULB, and their numerous partners. This year, the title goes to the Turkish journalist and writer Ahmet Altan, who is in prison, and the Turkish writer and women’s rights activist Elif Shafak. Shafak will be there live – online.

In 2015, Saudi blogger Raif Badawi was the first recipient of the prize. Unfortunately, he remains in jail today. In 2016 the winners were Djemila Benhabib and Zineb El Rhazoui, in 2017 the Global Investigative Journalism Network, in 2018 Daphne Caruana Galizia and in 2019 Marcela Turati.

Top international speakers

The live-streamed event will be presented by Annelies Beck (VRT) and Caroline Hick (RTBF) and will be introduced by rectors Caroline Pauwels (VUB) and Yvon Englert (ULB). As every year, top international speakers are on the programme, including Guilherme Canela, the UNESCO Chief of Section for Freedom of Expression, and Caoilfhionn Gallagher, an internationally renowned lawyer specialising in human rights and media law. Among others, she defended the murdered Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.


Difference Day 2020 is organised by Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Université libre de Bruxelles, Erasmushogeschool Brussel, BOZAR, Evens Foundation and IHECS. They will be supported by the Flemish and French-speaking media, Bertelsmann, the European Broadcasting Union, European Publishers Council, the European Parliament, the European Commission, the European Democracy Endowment fund and the media ministers of Flanders and Wallonia.

Due to the corona crisis, the event will not take place at arts centre BOZAR, but will be streamed live from the Pilar concert hall on the VUB campus. You can watch it at

The full programme is available at