Jailed Journalist Bags Award


Ahmad Zeid-Abadi, an Iranian journalist who was sentenced to six years in prison by the President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad government, has been awarded the 2010 Golden Pen of Freedom, the annual press freedom prize of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) in Hamburg, Germany.

That was during a ceremony at the opening of the World Editors Forum in the port city.

According to WAN-IFRA, the journalist was honoured for “his courageous actions in the face of persecution and for his outstanding contribution to the defence and promotion of press freedom.”

The jailed journalist was among at least 110 journalists arrested following the disputed re-election of Ahmadinejad in June 2009.

Iran has notorious statistics when it comes to persecution of media men. This is because at least 23 journalists are in prison, about a fifth of all journalists imprisoned world-wide.

Xavier Vidal-Folch, President of the World Editors Forum, who presented the award, said: “Though we honour Mr Zeid-Abadi here today, it is also important to remember the other jailed journalists, the ones who don’t win awards but nevertheless suffer under despotic regimes.”

“We should never forget them and we in the international newspaper community should do our utmost to win their release.”

The award was accepted on behalf of Zeid-Abadi by Akbar Ganji, the 2006 Golden Pen laureate who had also been imprisoned by the Iranian regime. “Iran today is under the occupation of a band of deceitful liars,” Mr Ganji said, as he intermittently shed tears.

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“The occupying regime of the Shi’i clerics has targeted the moral foundation of the society and is determined to portray moral vices as virtues. Usually foreign occupiers occupy a country territorially. But these occupiers have targeted the dignity and integrity of a nation. In what these people in position of power do there is not a trace of commitment to ethics, propriety, or truthfulness.”

Zeid-Abadi, according to his colleague, was among those who opposed this tyrannical rule that has violated the constitutional rights of the people-and thus jail and solitary confinement has become his lot,” Mr Ganji said.

“I have no doubt that if Ahmad Zeidabadi was here with us, he would have shared the honor of this prestigious prize with other political prisoners. One must interpret these awards as a kind of ethical and moral endorsement of democratic activists who are committed to liberty and human rights.”

More trouble started for Zeid-Abadi, an academic and political commentator as well as a journalist, when he wrote an open letter from prison in 2000 protesting the judiciary’s treatment of imprisoned journalists. His epistle was widely distributed despite attempts by the authorities to suppress its publication.

Mr Zeid-Abadi, the former chief editor of the Azad newspaper and a contributor to the Tehran-based daily Hamshahari and the BBC Persian service, was among dozens of journalists who were systematically rounded up and detained following the disputed presidential election in June 2009. He was tried in August 2009, along with more than 40 other journalists and 100 prominent supporters of the country’s pro-reform movement, on charges of plotting to overthrow the clerical theocracy with a “soft revolution.” He was sentenced to six years in prison, five years in internal exile and a lifetime writing ban.

One week after his trial began, Mr Zeid-Abadi went on a hunger strike to protest his detention, and was hospitalized for 17 days when he was found unconscious in his cell.

—Ademola Aedegbamigbe/Hamburg, Germany

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