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Jailed Iranian Journalist Awarded UNESCO Media Prize

Jailed Iranian journalist Ahmad Zeidabadi
Jailed Iranian journalist Ahmad Zeidabadi
The jailed Iranian journalist Ahmad Zeidabadi has won the UN cultural organization's press freedom award.

UNESCO said on April 7 it chose Zeidabadi, the former editor in chief of "Azad" newspaper and a contributor to the BBC's Persian service, as the recipient of its Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize.

Zeidabadi was among hundreds arrested in the crackdown that followed mass protests against Iran's disputed June 2009 presidential election. He is serving a six-year jail sentence on charges of plotting to overthrow the government with a "soft revolution."

Diana Sangor, head of the 12-member judging panel for the award, said Zeidabadi was chosen for 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."

Janis Karklins, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information, told RFE/RL's Radio Farda today he hopes Iran will heed UNESCO's call to release Zeidabadi and that the journalist will be able to pick up his $25,000 award in person.

Zeidabadi's wife says her husband has been put under severe pressure in prison and has not been granted any leave since his arrest.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sent her “deepest” congratulations to Zeidabadi, saying the award is also recognition of the Iranian people's rich culture and strong commitment to human rights, despite brutal repression by their government.

Last year, Zeidabadi was awarded the Golden Pen of Freedom by the World Association of Newspapers in Paris.

The Guillermo Cano award is named in honor of the Colombian journalist who was murdered in front of his office in 1986.