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events 2011

The Embassy Presents the 2011 Alice G. Masaryk Human Rights Award to Czeslaw Walek

December 15, 2011
Joseph Pennington presents the award to Czeslaw Walek. (Photo U.S. Embassy Prague)

Joseph Pennington presents the award to Czeslaw Walek (right).

Alice Masaryková, the oldest daughter of the first president of Czechoslovakia. (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

Alice Masaryková, the oldest daughter of the first president of Czechoslovakia

On December 14, U.S. Embassy Prague announced the recipient of the 2011 Alice G. Masaryk Human Rights Award.  This year’s laureate is Czeslaw Walek for his long term dedication to human rights issues in the Czech Republic.

“Czeslaw Walek’s human rights activism has not been confined to one particular area,“ said Chargé d’Affaires Joseph Pennington in his remarks at the award ceremony. “He has worked in government and in the NGO sector, spearheading efforts on government transparency and anti-corruption and tackling the thorny issues of rights for the Roma and LGBT communities.”

Mr. Walek’s career has included work at the Ministry of Human Rights and Office of the Governmental Council for Roma Community Affairs; stints with Transparency International and the Trust for Civil Society in Central and Eastern Europe; and most recently, as President of Prague Pride in support of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered (LGBT) community in the Czech Republic. Mr. Walek’s years of service with the government and NGOs reflect a seriousness of purpose, which is an inspiration to others in the human rights field.

"And it is our role, the role of civil society, to spread awareness about danger of populist and racist ideology, to watch closely and if necessary to criticize politicians for not doing enough and to help individuals in need,"said Czeslaw Walek after receiving the award. "It will be even more difficult as funding will be smaller and smaller and problems bigger and bigger. But I am confident that the Czech civil society is healthy and strong and will survive it."

The Embassy established the Alice Garrigue Masaryk Award in 2004 to recognize persons and institutions in the Czech Republic who have made exceptional and continuing contributions to the advancement of human rights through courageous promotion of social justice, the defense of democratic liberties and an open civil society.

The award is named for Alice Garrigue Masaryk, a pre-eminent Czech-American and founder of the Czech Red Cross.  Alice G. Masaryk is among the great symbols of the interwoven history our two countries share.  Her courage while unjustly imprisoned by the Austro-Hungarian Empire, her determination to achieve equal rights for women, and her stand against the Communist takeover of the country served as inspiration for her countrymen. This award is a tribute to her personal courage in standing up for human rights. The award is also a symbol of the enduring, deep concern of Americans and Czechs for the promotion and protection of human rights on all fronts.  

Previous award winners include Anna Šabatová (2010), David Ondráčka (2009), Igor Blaževič (2008), the weekly Respekt (2007), Lucie Sládková (2006), Kumar Sri Vishwanathan (2005) and Jiří Kopal (2004). Award recipients have demonstrated the spirit of Alice Garrigue Masaryk through their own efforts to shed light on corruption, speak out about difficult issues and societal inequities, work as a community, and ensure that all elements of Czech society share the same fundamental rights and opportunities accorded to them by virtue of their humanity.