By Chief K.Masimba| AfroFutures.com Global Editor At Large
Zeidabadi, who was selected by an independent international jury of 12 media professionals, is a former editor-in-chief of the Azad newspaper and contributor to the Tehran-based daily Hamshahari, the BBC Persian service, and the Persian/English news site Rooz.
Zeidabadi is currently serving a six-year jail sentence following Iran’s disputed presidential election in 2009. Along with 40 other journalists and 100 prominent supporters of the country’s pro-reform movement, he was tried on charges of plotting to overthrow the Iranian government with a “soft revolution”. He was sentenced to six years imprisonment followed by five years internal exile, and banned for life from practicing his profession as a journalist.
Announcing the decision, jury president Diana Senghor said:
“The final choice of Ahmad Zeidabadi pays a tribute to his exceptional courage, resistance and commitment to freedom of expression, democracy, human rights, tolerance, and humanity. Beyond him, also the Prize will award the numerous Iranian journalists who are currently jailed.”
UNESCO’s Director-General, Irina Bokova, endorsed the jury’s decision and called for Mr Zeidabadi’s release from prison.
“Throughout his career Ahmad Zeidabadi has courageously and unceasingly spoken out for press freedom and freedom of expression, which is a fundamental human right that underpins all other civil liberties, a key ingredient of tolerant and open societies and vital for the rule of law and democratic governance,” said Bokova.
“Ahead of World Press Freedom Day and in recognition of the concerns expressed by the international jury for his health and well-being, I call on the Iranian authorities to release Mr Zeidabadi from detention.”
The UNESCO Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize was created in 1997 by UNESCO’s Executive Board. It is awarded annually during the celebration of World Press Freedom Day on 3 May. It honours the work of an individual or an organization defending or promoting freedom of expression anywhere in the world, especially if this action puts the individual’s life at risk