The World Association of Newspapers on Wednesday honored the jailed Iranian journalist, Ahmad Zaid-Abadi with its Golden Pen of Freedom Award in the German city of Hamburg. Zaid-Abadi, right, was sentenced in 2009 to six years in prison, five years of internal exile, and a lifetime ban on working as a journalist. He is behind bars in Tehran’s Evin Prison where, he told Xavier Vidal-Folch, president of World Editor’s Forum, “the desperation that jailers create is such that you are convinced it’s the end of the world.”
Dozens of journalists have been jailed and many more media outlets censored in Iran as the government cracked down after the disputed 2009 presidential election. And yet, “courageous men and women continue carrying on their jobs as journalists,” Vidal-Folch said to an ovation from dozens of senior editors from around the globe.
The award was accepted on behalf of Zaid-Abadi by Akbar Ganji, the exiled Iranian journalist who wore a green scarf in support of Iran’s reform movement. Ganji himself was imprisoned in 2000 after he participated in a conference in Berlin on conditions in Iran. He was released in 2006. In a highly emotional speech, Mr. Ganji referred to the theocratic regime as “a band of deceitful liars,” and accused it having “occupied the dignity and moral foundations of a nation, just as foreign powers would occupy the territory in the past.”
Said Ganji: “Not enough attention is paid to the axis of injustice suffered by Abadi and his relatives, and those of the other jailed journalists. Fear is beyond description for these people. Every time the bell rings, children are terrorized, thinking their home is being raided again.”