Ahmad Zeidabadi

Jailed Iranian journalist, Ahmad Zeidabadi has been awarded this year’s UNESCO Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize.

UNESCO reported that an independent international jury of 12 media professionals selected Zeidabadi and stated in an announcement: “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.”

While endorsing the decision of the jury panel, Irina Bukova, Director-General of UNESCO called for the release of Zeidabadi from prison.

Zeidabadi, was arrested right after the disputed re-election of Mahmoud Ahamdienjad in the 2009 presidential elections and is currently serving a six year prison term. His sentence also includes 5 years exile to Gonabad and a permanent ban form social and political activity.

Zeidabadi was a former editor-in-chief of Azad newspaper and contributor to Iranian daily, Hamshahri, as well as BBC Persian service and Rooz news website. He is also a member of the Association of Iranian Journalists and the president of one of Iran’s largest student organizations, the Iranian Alumni Association (Danesh Amoukhtegan).

A professor of political science, Zeidabadi has also lectured in numerous academic institutions.

UNESCO Director-General praised Zeidabadi’s media activities saying: “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.”

Zeidabadi was amongst the scores of journalists that were arrested by the Islamic Republic in the fierce crackdown on election protests of 2009.

Ahmad Zeidabadi was also given the prestigious Golden Pen of Freedom Award by the World Association of Newspapers in 2010 in recognition of outstanding action, in writing and deed, in the case of press freedom.

The UNESCO Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize has been awarded annually since 1997 to an individual or organization that has defended or promoted freedom of expression anywhere in world, especially if they have risked their lives in doing so.

The prize and $25,000 will be awarded during World Press Freedom Day celebrations on May 3.