The Fritt Ord Tribute 2012
Raya Bielenberg, Jahn Otto Johansen and Anne-Stine Johnsbråten

The Freedom of Expression Tribute goes to Raya Bielenberg, Jahn Otto Johansen and Anne-Stine Johnsbråten for the thought-provoking contributions that the three have made through their words, music and photographs, drawing attention to the plight of the Roma people and communicating valuable insight into Roma culture and history.

Raya Bielenberg (b. Raisa Udovikova in 1931) is a singer, actor and one of the most highly profiled mediators of the Roma culture in Norway. Born in the Soviet Union, she worked as a dramatic artist before coming to Norway in 1967. She soon joined the Norwegian public debate as an enthusiastic spokesperson about the conditions and rights of the Roma people. Bielenberg founded the annual Gypsy Festival Iagori in 1999, building up a large audience for Roma culture. She gives concerts with the group Raya & the Gypsy Legacy, where she is joined by her children and grandchildren. Raya’s biography “Born with a Guardian Angel”, by Svein Dybing and Terje Gammmelsrud, was published in 1984.

Jahn Otto Johansen (b. 1934) has been a journalist for more than half a century, during which time he has been especially interested in Eastern and Central Europe. For decades, he has championed the Roma and their plight, not least by writing “The Gypsies’ Holocaust” (1989) and “The people no one wants. The persecution of gypsies in Eastern Europe” (1995), “The most persecuted of the persecuted: The Gypsies in the Balkans” (2005) and “The Roma (The Gypsies): shunned and persecuted” (2010). He was editor-in-chief of Dagbladet (1977–1984), but is arguably best-known for his prolific authorship and career spanning nearly 40 years as chief foreign correspondent, a reporter and a correspondent for the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation. In 2003, Johansen held the Fritt Ord Foundation Chair at the Department of Media and Communication at the University of Oslo.

Anne-Stine Johnsbråten (b. 1983) is a documentary photographer and photojournalist. She has been working on a photo project entitled “The Roma in Norway” for several years. By shadowing a Roma family, the Jansens, Johnsbråten has captured the essence of their everyday lives, celebrations and travels. The photo project has been shown in group exhibitions at the Henie Onstad Art Centre in Oslo, Norway (2009) and in Ljubljana, Slovenia (2010). Based on her pictures of the Roma, Anne-Stine Johnsbråten was one of the main exhibitors at the Museum of Cultural History in Oslo (2010) and at the Molde City Museum (2012). She also curated the exhibition “Excerpted from the Roma Family Album” for the Norwegian Roma Embassy when a temporary cultural centre was set up at Tullinløkka in Oslo in 2012.

The Freedom of Expression Tribute acknowledges remarkable efforts to promote free speech, often in connection with current events. The Tribute is accompanied by NOK 100 000 for each recipient. The tribute was awarded at an open ceremony on 26 September 2012 at Uranienborgveien 2 in Oslo.