One of the estimated 110 journalists to be arrested in the wake of the 2009 Iran presidential election has been awarded the World Association of Newspapers Golden Pen of Freedom prize.
Ahmad Zeid-Abadi, who is serving a six-year prison sentence, was honoured during a ceremony at the opening of the World Editors Forum in Hamburg, Germany, yesterday for “his courageous actions in the face of persecution and for his outstanding contribution to the defence and promotion of press freedom”.
According to WAN at least 110 journalists were arrested following the disputed re-election of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in June 2009.
It says that at least 23 remain behind bars, representing about a fifth of all journalists imprisoned worldwide.
The award was accepted on behalf of Zeid-Abadi by Akbar Ganji, the 2006 Golden Pen winner who had also been imprisoned by the Iranian regime.
He said: ‘Iran today is under the occupation of a band of deceitful liars,” at times breaking into tears during the ceremony.
“The occupying regime of the Shia 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.
“Ahmad Zeidabadi was among those who opposed this tyrannical rule that has violated the constitutional rights of the peopleand thus jail and solitary confinement has become his lot.
“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.”
Zeid-Abadi is the former chief editor of the Azad newspaper and a contributor to the Tehran-based daily Hamshahari and the BBC Persian service.
Acccording to WAN 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 government 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, Zeid-Abadi went on a hunger strike to protest his detention, leading to him needing hospital treatment.
He has been in and out of prison since 2000.
WAN quotes an an interview he gave following his imprisonment nearly a decade ago in Iran’s Evin jail.
“The desperation they create in prison is so bad you think it’s the end of the world. The criminals use rape, especially with newcomers. And when you’re taken everywhere blindfolded and hear horrible, scary screams, and you are put in a tiny cell, you have the feeling that you will never see normal life again.”
In presenting the award, WAN-IFRA and the World Editors Forum again called for the release of all jailed journalists in Iran.