Over 500 Journalists from around the world converged in Washington D.C. to participate in the World Press Freedom Day 2011 conference themed “21st Century Media: New Frontiers, New Barriers.”
The 3 days event which took place at the Newseum (May 1st and 2nd) and The National Press Club DC (May 3rd) focused on exploring different topics around the Digital Media, Censorship, Media laws, etc. The event also included the adoption of the Washington Declaration to foster Press Freedom around the world and an award ceremony.
This year, an independent jury selected Ahmad Zeidabadi as the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize winner. However, the Iranian Journalist was absent during the ceremony because he was imprisoned, as published in WP- Zeidabadi is serving a six-year term after being arrested in June of 2009 for violating a government order banning him from “all public and social activity, including journalism,” and allegedly plotting to overthrow the Iranian government with a “soft revolution.”
His Statement in response to being awarded:
I would like to greet the honourable Director General of UNESCO, as well as the members of the Prize Jury for their efforts and for the honour they have bestowed upon me with the award of the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize.
I feel sad and apologetic for not being able to draft a message worthy of the occasion and your gathering. As you may be aware, the Revolutionary Court in addition to sentencing me to six years’ imprisonment, five years of exile and a lifetime ban on political, social and journalistic activity has also banned me forever from any writing and speaking. Therefore, any message by me would add to my suffering and that of my family.
Despite that restriction, I would like to make it clear that in the performance of my profession, I had no means but my pen and my speech and that in using those means, I never went beyond the narrow and limited confines of the Iranian government’s laws and regulations. But, in violation of their own laws and regulations, they have imposed pain and suffering beyond my endurance — pain and suffering resembling those of a person who is crucified for weeks or buried alive.
While in prison, I constantly strive to forgive, but I cannot forget.
Finally, in accepting this Prize which is in reality a recognition of all prisoners of opinion in my country and my imprisoned or exiled colleagues, I dedicate it to my family and in particular to my wife and children. In addition to the psychological pains of these two years, they have for the past ten years had to live with the dread of an expected “knock on the door.” With every unexpected knock on the door, their fragile and innocent hearts were agitated.
I also dedicate this Prize to the mother of Sohrab Arabi* and all other heartbroken mothers whose sons never returned home. I dedicate it to all tearful mothers, sisters, daughters and the children who live with the pain of having their loved ones in prison.
For remembering us, God will remember and reward you.”
(Statement first posted on UNESCO.org).
For daily highlights of the event, please visit http://www.wpfd2011.org/blog