Originally established in 1979 by Christie Hefner, Hugh’s daughter and the present Chairman and CEO of Playboy, the awards seek to honor people from all walks of life who have in some vital way enhanced and protected America’s First Amendment rights.
Past winners have come from varied backgrounds, including print and broadcast journalism, arts and entertainment, education, publishing, law and government. They have been as well known as the outspoken talk show host Bill Maher to 21-year old Talia Buford, who fought for the right to have her school’s paper uncensored.
Other winners include librarians who took on the U.S. Patriot Act, parents who prevented a Michigan school from banning Harry Potter books and a former supervisory agent and forensic chemist for the FBI who blew the whistle on fraud and scientific misconduct in FBI crime labs.
Winners, culled from categories as diverse as their aforementioned backgrounds, are presented with $5,000 and a commemorative plaque during a much-hyped annual ceremony, which takes place April 24, 2006 in New York.
Since 1979, Playboy has honored more than 100 individuals with the award.
Nominees are judged by an equally eclectic bunch, which has included CNN’s Margaret Carlson, columnist Molly Ivins and even former Texas Gov. Ann Richards.
The deadline for submitting nominations for the next awards show is Feb. 10.