15 November 2011

Associate Professor Katharine Gelber, from UQ's School of Political Science and International Studies has been awarded the Sydney PEN Keneally Award for her contribution to the Protection of the Freedom of Expression.

In a ceremony in Sydney, Dr Gelber was honoured for all her work in the human rights arena when she was presented with her award by writer Thomas Keneally, after whom the award is named.

The Sydney PEN Centre, an affiliate of PEN International, is an NGO committed to defending freedom of expression: campaigning on behalf of writers in the Asia and Pacific region who have been silenced by persecution or imprisonment, and promoting the written word in all its forms.

Dr Gelber is also among the finalists for the prestigious Human Rights Awards organised by the Australian Human Rights Commission.

Her recent book Speech Matters - Getting Free Speech Right, published by The University of Queensland Press, is one of four shortlisted in the Literature (non-fiction) category. The winner will be announced at an event in Sydney in December.

In her book, Dr Gelber argues that while freedom of speech is a vital democratic freedom and one that most Australians take for granted, it is also an area in Australia where laws and policies are very restrictive and damaging to our democratic ideals.

The book challenges people to generate a more robust commitment to this freedom, and in so doing to liberate freedom of speech from the strictures in which it is currently entangled.

"It's amazing and incredibly humbling to receive this level of recognition," says Dr Gelber. "Compared to many writers around the world, I am free to express myself and I am very aware of the privilege and luxury of being able to do that work openly."

Dr Gelber is set to undertake further research into free speech after being announced as a recipient of a highly sought-after ARC Future Fellowship.

The four-year research position was granted for her project on "Free Speech after 9/11".

"The project will look at how some anti-terrorism measures introduced after 9/11 infringed on one of the key civil liberties that is the reason for our being targeted by terrorists in the first place," she explains.

Dr Gelber joined UQ as Associate Professor in Public Policy in January 2011, after nine years at the University of New South Wales.

She was the Australian Expert Witness at a United Nations' regional meeting in Bangkok discussing states' compliance with the free speech and racial/religious hatred provisions of international law (specifically, Articles 19 and 20 of the ICCPR).

She is the Immediate Past President of the Australian Political Studies Association and regularly makes submissions to government inquiries into speech-related matters, including academic freedom and anti-terrorism laws.

Media: Gillian Ievers on 07 3365 3308.