The  Axel Springer Freedom Foundation will support dissidents, artists, and media professionals as well as projects from authoritarian countries that stand up for freedom, human rights and democracy, often at great personal risk.

Axel Springer’sunwavering commitment to freedom was the cornerstone of his personal and business conduct and which remains a fundamental value of the Axel Springer group  today.

The Axel Springer Freedom Foundation will support the human rights defenders and their organisations, including through donations, actively publicise their causes and facilitate networking contacts between them and decision-makers in the civil society, business, and political spheres.

The Axel Springer Freedom Foundation is also responsible for the annual Award for Courage, which honours individuals for their courageous commitment to human rights.

The first winner in November last year was the Russian opposition politician, historian and journalist Vladimir Kara-Murza, who for decades has been fighting for a democratic Russia, has survived poisoning attempts and was imprisoned in Russia after public criticism of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine.

The Axel Springer Freedom Foundation is headed by Antje Schippmann – most recently a member of the chief editorial department and Managing Editor at BILD – and Katharina Neubert, managing director for Editorial Strategy at BILD. The Chairman of the Freedom Foundation is Mathias Döpfner, CEO of Axel Springer SE.

““The defence of freedom and democracy is not only a moral but also a strategic imperative. For years, dissidents have warned against sacrificing our core values of freedom for short-term economic interests, and history proves them right: Those who betray their values in the face of autocrats will lose in the end, including economically,” says Döpfner.

“Through the Axel Springer Freedom Foundation, we are providing these dissidents with a platform so that their concerns – which are also our concerns – will reach even more people.” 

Antje Schippmann (left) and Katharina Neubert

The activities of the Axel Springer Freedom Foundation are supported by an advisory board of human rights defenders, including Rushan Abbas (founder of “Campaign for Uyghurs”), Iranian women’s rights activist Masih Alinejad, Samuel Chu (founder of the “Campaign for Hong Kong”), Afghan activist Roya Mahboob (Co-founder “Afghan Girls Robotics Team”), Rosa María Payá (founder of “Cuba Decide”) and Soviet dissident Natan Sharanski.

“With the Axel Springer Freedom Foundation, we are continuing the tradition of our company founder, who passionately advocated for political prisoners and their families as well as dissidents and their causes,” says Antje Schippmann.

“Defending freedom and democracy is not just an empty phrase for us, but the crucial question of our time, and an issue that has increasingly captured the public’s attention. Far too often, the German attitude towards autocrats has been characterised by timidity and faintheartedness where courage and solidarity were needed. Together with our allies, we want to help freedom prevail – against the axis of unfreedom, from Moscow and Tehran to Beijing and Havana.”

Further information, including ways to actively support the Freedom Foundation, can be found at

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