Unesco awards prize to imprisoned Iranian journalists

Iranian journalists Niloofar Hamedi, Elaheh Mohammadi and Narges Mohammadi have been awarded the Unesco/Guillermo Cano 2023 World Press Freedom Prize for their work. All three are imprisoned in their country, and World Press Freedom Day calls for their release (Unesco image).
Three imprisoned Iranian journalists, Niloofar Hamedi, Elaheh Mohammadi and Narges Mohammadi, were awarded this year’s Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco).

Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of Unesco, said: “Now more than ever, it is important to pay tribute to all women journalists who are unable to do their work and who face threats and attacks on their personal safety. Today we honour their commitment to truth and accountability”.

The award was presented to the Iranian women journalists as part of World Press Freedom Day, which is commemorated every 3 May in memory of the date in 1991 when African journalists adopted, in Windhoek and with Unesco, a declaration in favour of an independent and pluralistic press.

“We want to pay tribute to the courageous work of Iranian women journalists whose reporting led to a historic revolution led by women,” said Iraqi writer Zainab Salbi, chair of the international jury of media professionals that awarded the prize.

Iranian women journalists “have paid a high price for their commitment to reporting and conveying the truth. And so we have a responsibility to honour them and ensure that their voices continue to resonate around the world until they are safe and free,” said Salbi.

Niloofar Hamedi worked for Iran’s leading reformist daily Shargh. It was she who broke the news of the death of young Masha Amini in police custody after she was arrested on 16 September 2022 by the morality police on charges of not wearing the Islamic headscarf correctly.

She has been held in solitary confinement in Tehran’s Evin Prison since September 2022.

Elaheh Mohammadi writes for the reformist newspaper Ham-Mihan, where she covers social and gender equality issues. She reported on the funeral of Masha Amini, and has also been detained in Evin Prison since September 2022. Previously, in 2020, she was banned from reporting for one year because of her work.

Niloofar Hamedi and Elaheh Mohammadi also jointly received the 2023 International Press Freedom Award from Canadian Journalists for Freedom of Expression, and the 2023 Louis M. Lyons Award for Conscience and Integrity in Journalism from the US-based Harvard Foundation.

Narges Mohammadi has worked for many years as a journalist for various newspapers and is also an author and deputy director of the Tehran-based civil society organisation Centre for Human Rights Defenders.

She is currently serving a 16-year prison sentence in Evin prison. She has continued to report in the press from prison, and has also interviewed other women prisoners. These interviews were included in her book “White Torture”. In 2022, she won the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) Courage Award.

Unesco highlighted on the day that women journalists and media workers around the world are increasingly facing attacks, both online and offline, and are disproportionately threatened.

The gender-based violence to which they are exposed includes stigmatisation, sexist hate speech, trolling (offensive messages), physical assault, rape and even murder.

Unesco is committed to upholding the safety of women journalists and “collaborates to identify and implement best practices and share recommendations with all those involved in the fight against attacks on women journalists, as recognised by numerous UN resolutions,” the organisation said.

The Unesco/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize, created in 1997, is named after Guillermo Cano Isaza, a Colombian journalist murdered outside the offices of his newspaper, El Espectador, in Bogotá on 17 December 1986.

It annually honours a person, organisation or institution that has made a notable contribution to the defence or promotion of press freedom anywhere in the world, especially if such contribution was made under circumstances of risk.

Inter Press Service