Jailed Iranian journalist receives WAN-IFRA Golden Pen of Freedom
Zeid-Abadi, who is serving a six-year prison sentence for plotting to overthrow the government, was honoured during a ceremony at the World Editors Forum in Hamburg, Germany, last week, for "his courageous actions in the face of persecution and for his outstanding contribution to the defence and promotion of press freedom."
Zeid-Abadi was among at least 110 journalists arrested following the disputed re-election of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in June 2009. At least 23 remain behind bars, about a fifth of all journalists imprisoned worldwide, says WAN-IFRA.
His award was accepted by Akbar Ganji, the 2006 Golden Pen laureate who had also been imprisoned by the Iranian regime.
"I have no doubt that if Ahmad Zeid-Abadi was here with us, he would have shared the honour 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," Ganji said when accepting the award.
Zeid-Abadi, an academic and political commentator as well as a journalist, is known for an open letter he wrote from prison in 2000 protesting the judiciary's treatment of imprisoned journalists. The letter was widely distributed despite attempts by the authorities to suppress its publication.
In presenting the award, WAN-IFRA put out a resolution calling for the release of all jailed journalists in Iran.
At the forum, the board also issued resolutions urging: African governments to immediately abolish criminal defamation and insult laws; South African President Jacob Zuma and his party to withdraw a proposal for a government-appointed Media Tribunal, as well as to withdraw the Protection of Information Bill, which would allow officials to classify documents as "confidential" on vaguely defined grounds; the government of Bahrain to put an end to its recent spate of online censorship, arrests and intimidation of journalists; and Argentine President Cristina Kirchner to ensure that the government reverse recent actions that undermine the independent press in Argentina, such as distributing official advertising funds to pro-government media.
WAN-IFRA also used the forum as a launching pad for its annual review of press freedom. In the report, WAN-IFRA says that at least 56 journalists were killed so far this year and at least 120 media employees have been jailed.