New York, March 27, 2000 — Jailed Syrian journalist and human rights activist Nizar Nayyouf has been awarded the 2000 UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize. Established in 1997, the award is given annually to individuals or institutions that have “made a notable contribution to the defense and/or promotion of press freedom anywhere in the world, especially if this involves risk.”
UNESCO announced the award on March 17. This year’s Cano Prize, which includes a US$25,000 cash award, will be presented in Geneva on May 3, World Press Freedom Day.
Nayyouf is a former free-lance journalist who was a leading member of the independent Committees for the Defense of Democratic Freedoms and Human Rights in Syria (CDF), and editor of CDF’s monthly publication Sawt al-Democratiyya. He was arrested in January 1992 and later convicted by the Supreme State Security Court on charges of belonging to an unauthorized organization and disseminating false information. He was severely tortured during his interrogation.
Nayyouf, who is serving a 10-year sentence in solitary confinement in the Mezze military prison in Damascus, reportedly suffers from partial paralysis of his lower extremities, resulting from torture. He is also said to suffer from several other serious ailments, including Hodgkin’s disease, kidney failure, and deteriorating eyesight.