Iranian journalist Mashallah Shamsolvaezin receives the 2014 World Press Freedom Hero Award from Alison Bethel McKenzie, IPI’s executive director, at the IPI World Congress in Cape Town on April 14.
By: Steven M. Ellis
CAPE TOWN, April 15, 2014 – Iranian journalist Mashallah Shamsolvaezin, the International Press Institute’s newest World Press Freedom Hero, called publicly on his country’s government to unconditionally release the 48 journalists it holds behind bars.
Accepting his award yesterday at IPI’s 2014 World Congress
in Cape Town, Shamsolvaezin said of Iran’s government: “They have the power and they have control over the power. They should be willing to give up control and allow others freedom.”
Shamsolvaezin said that his research and monitoring of developments in Iran showed that 48 journalists are imprisoned, which would make the country the leading jailer of journalists in the world, surpassing Turkey.
Some 44 journalists are behind bars in Turkey, local sources say, following releases of a number held in connection with alleged coup plots. That tally is a drop from a high in Turkey of more than 100 journalists who were in prison in 2012.
Thanking IPI for the award, Shamsolvaezin also urged the Iranian government "to release and unfreeze the block” on the Association of Iranian Journalists, which he headed until authorities shut it down in 2009. That request echoed a call by Palestinian journalist and IPI Executive Board Member Daoud Kuttab earlier in the day, urging IPI members at their General Assembly to call on Iran’s government to drop its ban on the association.
Shamsolvaezin is a former editor, and in some cases founder, of four reformist dailies shut down by Iran’s authorities. He has been jailed numerous times for his criticism of government policies and he served 17 months in Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison from 2000 to 2001 in connection with an article that he wrote criticising capital punishment, which was deemed insulting to Islamic principles.
Speaking via interpretation provided by Kuttab, Shamsolvaezin told Congress participants that journalists in Iran experience only three of the four seasons.
“Summer, where it’s very, very hot,” he said. “Fall, when the press has gone down. And winter, when the press is frozen. In the last 100 years, there have only been four springs. That’s basically an average of once every 25 years.”
The journalist observed that “many people think that the responsibility is that of journalists, because they haven’t held onto that spring.” But he countered that, “in my opinion, governments who are monarchies or religious governments are responsible for the absence of a Tehran spring.”
IPI’s World Press Freedom Hero Award honours individuals who have made a significant contribution to press freedom, often at significant risk of attack or imprisonment.
IPI yesterday also honoured Al-Monitor
as the recipient of IPI’s 2014 Free Media Pioneer Award. The media organisation provides original reporting and analysis by prominent journalists and experts from the Middle East, and offers an in-depth focus on Egypt, the Gulf, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria and Turkey.
Branding itself "the pulse of the Middle East," Al-Monitor
covers news and trends in partnership with nearly two dozen regional publications. It publishes content both in English and its original language - Arabic, Hebrew, Persian and Turkish.
Al-Monitor founder Jamal Daniel said in a videotaped address: “In 2011, the Arab Spring found its voice. You could say that a pulse began to beat. I founded Al-Monitor to hear that pulse.”
He pledged that Al-Monitor would “live up to your call for excellence”, adding: “We hereby commit to continue to search for the one pulse that, one day, despite the turmoil, will unite the Middle East – the pulse of its soul.”
Given annually, IPI’s Free Media Pioneer Award was established in 1996 to honour media or organisations that have fought to ensure freer and more independent media in their country.
IPI last night’s ceremony with the presentation of the 2014 International Human Rights Book Award to South African journalist Hugh Lewin for Stones Against the Mirror: Friendship in the time of the South African Struggle. The book details Lewin’s experience in South Africa’s anti-apartheid struggle, including the seven years he spent behind bars as a political prisoner and his journey towards reconciliation with the former comrade who betrayed him to security police.
Noting to attendees that there are still some 200 journalists behind bars around the world, Lewin said of his award: “I dedicate it to them, wherever they may be.”
Recipients of the book award are chosen by an international panel of journalists and media experts under the chairmanship of Johann P. Fritz, a former director of IPI.
More on Shamsolvaezin........
VIENNA, Jan. 31, 2014 – The International Press Institute (IPI) today announced that Iranian journalist Mashallah Shamsolvaezin has been named the IPI World Press Freedom Hero.Shamsolvaezin is the former editor, and in some cases founder, of four reformist dailies, Kayhan, Jame'eh (laterTous), Neshat, and Asr-e Azadegan, which were all successively shut down by Iran’s authorities.He was jailed numerous times for his criticism of government policies, the longest detention period being the 17 months he spent in Iran’s notorious Evin Prison in 2000-2001 in connection with an article criticizing capital punishment that was deemed insulting to Islamic principles.Shamsolvaezin serves as spokesman for the Iranian Committee for the Defense of Freedom of the Press and as vice president of the, now-defunct, Association of Iranian Journalists.A former recipient of CPJ’s 2000 International Press Freedom award for courage and independence in reporting the news, Shamsolvaezin just last month criticized the Iranian government for failing to protect press freedom, telling the Iranian Labour News Agency (ILNA): "In the past and under the former administration, the Ministry of Guidance’s press branch would accept media community members with open arms. They would talk with them, but it would all end up with no result." The Rohani government, he told ILNA, is operating in exactly the same manner.Symbols of courage in global journalismMashallah Shamsolvaezin will become the International Press Institute's (IPI) 66th journalist to receive the World Press Freedom Hero honor. He is the third Iranian journalist to receive the award, the others being Akbar Ganji and Faraj Sarkohi. Other recipients of the award include Katherine Graham, former publisher of The Washington Post; investigative journalist David Stephenson Rohde; Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya; Percy Qoboza, of South Africa; Doàn Viét Hoat of Vietnam;Veronica Guerin, of Ireland; and Sir Harold Evans.Shamsolvaezin was selected for the honor by a seven-member jury consisting of senior media executives from Liberia, the United States, Zambia, Poland, Japan, Jordan and Austria.Award ceremony in Cape TownShamsolvaezin will be presented with the award at IPI's annual World Congress, which will be held on April 12-15, 2014 in Cape Town, South Africa. For more information on the Congress, go to www.ipiworldcongress.com or email mmiletic[@]freemedia.at.