Warwick pupil’s human rights essay wins him national award

Max Owen with his Amnesty Youth Award.

Max Owen with his Amnesty Youth Award.

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A Warwick School pupil’s essay about an Eritrean journalist who is being held in prison without charge has won him the top prize in a UK-wide competition.

Max Owen, 17, won the Amnesty Youth Awards, which were held in London this month and was open to seven to 19-year-olds across the country.

Speaking after receiving his award, Max said: “I had work experience in South Africa, which is what initially sparked my interest in the Eritrean journalist Dawit Isaak, so I decided to write about it as I wanted to research further into his case.”

Max’s entry was judged by a panel including BBC journalist Ritula Shah, Susan Roth of the London public research university SOAS, Alannah Lewis, a youth judge and previous winner, and Observer journalist Kathryn Bromwich. Entrants were asked to explore human rights issues through reporting, photography, poetry, performing and campaigning and fundraising strands.

BBC reporter Sonali Shah, who hosted the ceremony, said: “I was honoured to be asked to host this year’s Amnesty Youth Awards. It is amazing to see young people across the UK take part in the competition and stand up for human rights through journalism and creative mediums.

“I was overwhelmed by the standard of the finalist work I have seen today and congratulate all those who have taken part.”

Kate Allen, director of Amnesty International UK, said: “The awards hold a big place in the hearts of everyone at Amnesty International. In an era when we see tragedies unfolding on our screens in places like Syria, the Central African Republic and Yemen, it is great to see the next generation cares so much.”

Dawit Isaak is a Swedish-Eritrean writer who has been held in an Eritrean prison without charge since 2001, after writing letters to the president demanding democratic reform. Amnesty International consider him to be a prisoner of conscience.