Press release

Freedom House Announces Free Them All: The Fred Hiatt Program to Free Political Prisoners

WASHINGTON— Freedom House is proud to announce the launch of Free Them All: The Fred Hiatt Program to Free Political Prisoners. The initiative is named in honor of pathbreaking American journalist and former Washington Post editorial page editor Fred Hiatt, and seeks to challenge the unjust imprisonment of human rights defenders, journalists, and prodemocracy activists around the world. The announcement comes shortly after the anniversary of Hiatt’s death on December 6, 2021.

“Fred always believed in the power that human rights defenders and journalists have to challenge oppressive governments,” said Michael J. Abramowitz, president of Freedom House. “Under Fred’s leadership, the Washington Post opinion pages became a powerful platform for these brave individuals to challenge autocrats and champion democracy. With the blessing of the Hiatt family, Freedom House is honored to carry out our important work under his name to free some of the many activists and journalists who are unjustly detained by authoritarian regimes.”

The initiative represents an expanded commitment by Freedom House to combat political imprisonment. Under the Fred Hiatt Program, Freedom House will work to secure the release of political prisoners, support their families, and promote democratic freedoms by raising awareness about authoritarian regimes that detain human rights defenders, journalists, and prodemocracy activists.

“As a journalist, Fred felt a huge responsibility to write about activists and journalists around the world who put their lives at risk to demand democracy and freedom in their own countries,” said Margaret Shapiro, Fred Hiatt’s wife, who is also a journalist. “They were so brave, and Fred was determined that they not be allowed to vanish from our sight. So I know he'd be very honored to have that effort continue through the Fred Hiatt Program to free political prisoners.”

At the Washington Post, Hiatt regularly published work by dissidents fighting for freedom and democracy, like Natan Sharansky, Vladimir Kara-Murza, and Jamal Khashoggi. He also highlighted the work of activists whose cases received comparatively less international attention, such as Ti-Anna Wang, whose father, Wang Bingzhang, is serving a life sentence in China after being imprisoned for his prodemocracy activism. Freedom House recognized the Washington Post editorial page under Hiatt’s leadership in 2011 with the Raising Awareness Award for his substantial contribution to the field of journalism and for his commitment to highlighting threats to freedom around the world. Hiatt dedicated the award to U Gambira, a Burmese monk and political prisoner who was arrested for publishing an op-ed in the Washington Post condemning the Burmese regime.

Freedom House has raised more than $6 million to launch the program and is continuing to raise funds. The project was initiated by a transformational donation from philanthropist and attorney Alfred Moses. Additional support has been provided by Peter Brown and Peggy Hamburg, Maureen and Robert Decherd, Julie Farkas and Seth Goldman, Harvey V. Fineberg and Mary E. Wilson, Gideon Foundation, Donald Graham and Amanda Bennett, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Hitchcock Hoagland Foundation, the Peter Mackler Award, and Margaret Shapiro.

To pledge your financial support for the Fred Hiatt Program, please contact Brian Hill, vice president of development, at [email protected]. Visit the webpage here to learn more about Free Them All: The Fred Hiatt Program to Free Political Prisoners.

Freedom House is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that works to create a world where all are free. We inform the world about threats to freedom, mobilize global action, and support democracy’s defenders.