Vaclav Havel Library Foundation Announces Angel Santiesteban Prats as the 2020 Winner, Disturbing the Peace, Award to a Courageous Writer at Risk

The Vaclav Havel Library Foundation announced today that the winner of the 2020 Disturbing the Peace, Award to a Courageous Writer at Risk is Cuban author Angel Santiesteban Prats.

Angel Santiesteban Prats is a renowned Cuban short-story writer, social commentator, and blogger. He has been published around the world and has received various literary prizes, including the 2001 Alejo Carpentier Award of the Cuban Book Institute for his collection of short stories, The Children Nobody Wanted, and the Casa de las Americas Award in 2006 for his short-story collection, Blessed Are Those Who Mourn. In March 2009, he started a blog entitled The Children Nobody Wanted.

Angel Santiesteban Prats
Source: Twitter / HijosQueNadieQuiso@BlogAngelSP /


For his open opposition to the regime, Santiesteban has been subjected to continuous harassment and accusations. On December 8, 2012, he was condemned to five years in prison for his criticism of the Castro dictatorship. The regime tried to hide him in a military hospital for dermatological treatment, but his family and lawyer said this was a ploy to remove him from access by the Commission of National and International Journalists, which had permission to visit him in the prison in which he was previously held. Santiesteban was later refused treatment by authorities as a proper hospital and instead was moved to several other detention facilities. He has since been released from prison.

The script and screenplay for the upcoming film Plantados, a multi-million dollars production, was co-written by Angel Santiesteban.

Angel Santiesteban Prats will receive the Disturbing the Peace Award, which includes a $5,000 cash prize and a month-long residency at the Vaclav Havel Library in Prague during an online Gala evening on September 24, 2020.

About the Award Process

Nominations for the award are collected each year from international institutions prominent in literature and human rights. A short list is prepared by the VHLF Award Committee and forwarded to jurors, who select the awardee. The previous recipients of the Disturbing the Peace Award are Turkish writer and journalist Asli Erdogan (2019), Chinese author, reporter, musician, and poet Liao Yiwu (2018), Kurdish novelist Burhan Sönmez (2017), and Burmese writer Ma Thida (2016).

In 2020, the VHLF consulted with the following organizations:

The jury members for 2020 included:

Jolyon Naegele was an Eastern and Southeastern European correspondent for the U.S. radio station Voice of America. He worked as a staff correspondent covering Eastern and Southeastern Europe for RFE/RL (1996-2003), VOA (1984-1994), and Business International (1980-1984). In 1985, the New York-born journalist received permission to report from inside Czechoslovakia, where, despite the close attention of the secret police, he managed to interview Vaclav Havel and other significant figures. He began reporting regularly from Yugoslavia, including Kosovo, from the mid-1980s and covered Yugoslavia’s break-up . He was head of the Political Affairs Office at the United Nations Mission Office in Kosovo.

Jim Ottaway, Jr. is a journalist, publisher, and philanthropist. He is a member of the board of directors of Words Without Borders, retired senior vice president of Dow Jones & Co., and retired chairman of Ottaway Newspapers, Inc. Mr. Ottaway has served on the Associated Press board of directors and the advisory board of United Press International. He has also been a Pulitzer Prize juror. For many years, he was chairman of the World Press Freedom Committee, a member of Human Rights Watch, and a member of the board of Doctors Without Borders. He has funded long-term fellowships for Czech and Slovak students at Bard College, New York, as well as the Czechoslovak Documentation Center.

Dr. Sevinç Türkkan is a scholar of literary and cultural studies and expert of modern Turkish literature. Her work has appeared in Reading in TranslationPublic SeminarTürkisch-deutsche Studien JahrbuchTranslation and LiteratureTeaching TranslationCritical Essays on Orhan PamukGlobal Perspectives on Orhan PamukPost-1960 Novelists in TurkeyInternational Journal of the Humanities, and elsewhere. She is the co-editor of Approaches to Teaching the Works of Orhan Pamuk (MLA 2018). Her translation of The Stone Building and Other Places (City Lights 2018) by Aslı Erdoğan (winner of 2019 Vaclav Havel Disturbing the Peace Prize Award) was a finalist for the 2019 PEN Translation Prize.

Their feedback in support of the Angel Santiesteban Prats nomination stated:

“All six writers on the shortlist are extremely brave and gifted people who have sacrificed the comfort of their lives to fight the injustices of oppressive and totalitarian regimes. The selection process was challenging.

Angel Santiesteban Prats is known as the most prolific and outspoken public critic of the authoritarian rule of Cuba by the Castro Family for 60 years. He has shown great courage and leadership speaking out against the jailing of 75 writers and political activists, when all other pubic intellectuals remained silent. He remained in Cuba, even after being badly treated in jail for five years. …his film Plantados about the Castro’s brutal treatment of dissidents will have a shocking impact.”

The other five nominees for 2020 include Ahmet Altan (Turkey, in prison), Bùi Chát (Vietnam), Yirgalem Fisseha Mebrahtu (Eritrea, living in Germany), Anand Teltumbde (India), and Marcia Tiburi (Brazil / USA / Europe).

Members of the VHLF Award Committee are:

  • Tamar Newberger, computer scientist, activist
  • Pavla Niklova, VHLF executive director
  • Martin Palous, former ambassador of the Czech Republic to the United Nations and the United States, and president, VHLF board of directors
  • Lise Stone, vice-chair, VHLF board of directors
  • Salil Tripathi, chair, Writers in Prison Committee, PEN International
  • Marilyn Wyatt, vice-chair, VHLF board of directors

Press release: DISTURBING THE PEACE, Havel Foundation Award 2020