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CEU rector wins Dan David Prize for ‘Defending Democracy’

Michael Ignatieff, the Canadian president and rector of the Central European University (CEU), has been named co-winner of the 2019 Dan David Prize in the "Present" dimension, in the field of "Defending Democracy," says a press release sent to the Budapest Business Journal.

Michael Ignatieff (photo: CEU)

Ignatieff shares the prize with Reporters Without Borders, an international organization helping to sustain freedom of the press across national boundaries.

The Dan David Prize awards three prizes of USD 1 million each to figures and organizations delivering outstanding humanistic, scientific and technological accomplishments, representing notable achievement in fields within the three dimensions of time: past, present, and future. In 2019, the awarded fields are "Macro History," "Defending Democracy," and "Combating Climate Change."

"Michael Ignatieff has advocated for democracy around the world as a reporter, is a champion of human rights, and was one of the first to warn against the rise of ethnic nationalism," said the board of the Dan David Prize.  The board acknowledged Ignatieff "for his leadership as the president and rector of CEU in Budapest, standing in the front lines against the campaign to stifle academic freedom, free expression and pluralism in the country."

"My first reaction was utter astonishment, followed by gratitude and then, since this is recognition for work done in defense of democracy, the feeling that I still have lots to do," responded Ignatieff. "I am especially delighted to be honored in Israel, and by a great Israeli university," he added, in reference to Tel Aviv University, which presents the prize along with the Dan David Foundation.

The press release also noted how Reporters Without Borders (RWB) has emerged as the major international organization helping to sustain journalists assigned to areas subjected to attacks on the free press since its founding in 1985, assisting more than 500 journalists, sometimes helping to free them from arrest and imprisonment. RWB also monitors government policies regarding press and other media, as well as providing support for journalists and newspapers discriminated against and persecuted by authorities.

"The liberal democratic order faces a rising tide of new authoritarianism and populism; the very values that have sustained freedom and democracy are called into question," said Ariel David, a member of the Dan David Prize board and son of the prize founder. "Professor Michael Ignatieff and Reporters Without Borders are being recognized for their leadership in the daily struggle to protect freedom of academia and freedom of the press. These basic liberties are pillars of democracy and it is no coincidence that the media and universities are often the primary targets of the populist and authoritarian regimes that have risen to power."

Ignatieff and RWB will be honored alongside three other laureates at the 2019 Dan David Prize award ceremony in Tel Aviv in May by members of the Dan David Foundation and the Tel Aviv University leadership team. The laureates of the prize donate 10% of their award money to scholarships for graduate or postgraduate researchers in their respective fields.