#WEFHamburg: WAN-IFRA calls on Iran to improve press freedom standards

The World Association of Newspapers and IFRA (WAN-IFRA) used the opening ceremony of the Word Editors Forum (WEF) in Hamburg to call upon Iranian authorities to adhere to international standards of press freedom.

Presenting the annual Golden Pen of Freedom Award to Iranian journalist Ahmad Zeid-Abadi, Xavier Vidal-Folch, president of WEF, said Iranian journalists are “essentially trapped in a prison within a prison. A hellish place, where, in Ahmad Zeid-Abadi’s own words, ‘the desperation they create in prison is so bad you think it’s the end of the world’.

“Though we honour Mr Zeid-Abadi here today, it is also important to remember the other jailed journalists, the ones who don’t win awards but nevertheless suffer under despotic regimes, We should never forget them and we in the international newspaper community should do our utmost to win their release.”

Zeid-Abadi, who has worked for a range of daily and weekly newspapers in the country, is currently in prison in Iran. He was jailed, not for the first time in June 2009, after calling for Iranians to boycott the country’s election. He was sentenced to six years imprisonment and has previously been jailed and banned from practising journalism, because of his work.

According to WEF, 22 Iranian journalists are currently in prison in the country, accounting for around a fifth of all journalists imprisoned worldwide.

Accepting the award on his behalf, fellow Iranian journalist Akbar Ganji made an emotional speech in which he said treatment in prison had driven Zeid-Abadi to the “edge of suicide”. Ganji, who has himself spent time in jail because of his work as a journalist, said the family members of press freedom fighters and activists are often overlooked.

I have no doubt that if Ahmad Zeid-Abadi was here with us, he would have shared the honor of this prestigious award 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.

Today members of the world community of journalists have selected Ahmad Zeid-Abadi as the courageous journalist of 2010 fighting for democracy, and have honored him with the Golden Pen Award. This is a judicious and fair choice worthy of Ahmad Zeid-Abadi. He uses the might of his pen not just to tell the truth and expose political corruption.

In addition he also tries responsibly to use his pen and his ideas to make the world more ethical, reduce people’s pain and suffering. Without a doubt this pen will bring its responsibilities to fruition, for what that pen writes gushes forth from the soul of the person holding that pen and is the bright and shining mirror of his noble heart and his humane ideas.

Last month, Iranian blogger Hossein Derakhshan, who has dual citizenship in Iran and Canada, was jailed for 19 years after being convicted of “collaborating with hostile governments, committing blasphemy and propaganda against the Islamic Republic, and managing an obscene website”, according to an Al Jazeera report.

Read Xavier Vidal-Folch’s speech in full at this link…

Read Akbar Ganji’s speech in full at this link…

More from Journalism.co.uk:

Half the world’s jailed journalists were working online, says CPJ

Human rights lawyer arrested in Iran

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