Ali Gharavi and Peter Steudtner declared “Heroes” for providing digital security training to users at risk in Turkey

Today, Access Now recognizes digital security trainers Ali Gharavi and Peter Steudtner among the annual Heroes and Villains Award recipients. Gharavi and Steudner are recognized for standing up for the importance of digital security for those who need it most, at great personal risk and cost to themselves.

“Ali Gharavi and Peter Steudtner were providing much needed training to prominent human rights defenders in the midst of an unrelenting crackdown on civil society in Turkey. With this award, we recognize their work and denounce their unjust detention,” said Melody Patry, Access Now’s Advocacy Director.

Peter Steudtner and Ali Gharavi were detained along with eight others in July during a workshop in Istanbul, where they were training human rights defenders in wellbeing and digital security. Seven –- including Gharavi and Steudtner –- are currently being held in Silivri prison in Istanbul, the highest security prison in Turkey and one is held in Sincan prison in Ankara. Two others are on bail but all are facing an investigation under anti-terrorism laws. This investigation is part of a wider effort to silence critical voices in Turkey. Authorities have undertaken a massive crackdown since last year’s failed coup attempt, with hundreds of NGOs shut down and tens of thousands of people arbitrarily arrested. In this environment, strong digital security is crucial to human rights work.

Human rights are universal — including on the internet. To defend our privacy, in 2013 experts identified 13 principles governments must follow to ensure any electronic surveillance program fully respects human rights. They are known as the Necessary and Proportionate Principles. In celebration of those principles and the work of people around the world to protect digital rights, every year Access Now names “heroes” and “villains” who have either protected the principles of freedom online or worked to undermine them.

Previous heroes named by Access Now include U.N. Special Rapporteur David Kaye, U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy, and Edward Snowden. Read more about this year’s heroes and villains here.

In addition to recognition, Access Now calls for the immediate and unconditional release of Ali Gharavi, Peter Steudtner, and all participants in the digital security training detained in Istanbul last July. We urge Turkish authorities to drop all charges against them and to stop the criminalization of digital security.