Nazenin Ansari, London, 31st March 2009
Mohammad Sadegh Kaboudvand was awarded the International Journalist of the Year award at the The Press Gazette British Press Awards. Winning a British Press Award is seen as the crowning achievement of any journalist’s career – and just being shortlisted is to be set among the elite of the profession. International journalist of the year recognises the courage of an overseas journalist who has battled against oppression.
The category considered as one the Premier three awards of the evening was voted on by the entire academy of the British Press, comprising 100 senior journalists and media representatives. The other two Premier awards were Journalist of the Year and the Newspaper of the Year.
Kaboudvand, former editor of Payam-e mardom-e Kurdistan, closed by the Iranian authorities is currently serving a 10-year prison sentence in Tehran for his writing and is in a critical medical condition and in need of urgent care.
In a statement smuggled out of Evin prison, Kaboudvand offered his “sincere thanks and gratitude to the British Press Awards and everyone associated with it for making it their business to stand up and speak for all the suffering writers and journalists around the globe. “ He said, “In Iran, journalists are pursued, harassed, arrested and imprisoned for merely being true to their profession by seeking to reflect the truth or urging their rulers to simply respect the dignity and god given human rights of their citizens.”
He added, “Fifteen percent of the population, comprised of Kurds, faces a situation in which their whole identity and existence has become threatened, and individuals are severely punished whenever they speak for their trampled rights, even though they are one of the three co-founding people of our great nation. The ruling establishment speaks in support of religious minorities in other places when they, themselves, brutally suppress all religious minorities.”
He said, “Today, in our land no journalist, no critic of the regime or no human rights activist is able to pursue any of the issues pertaining to the kind of gross violations of basic human rights. There is no question that whenever, in such circumstances, any one should dare to openly discuss issues such as justice in its true sense, human rights, democracy, basic freedoms and other popular demands, that their path will inevitably lead to ultimate arrest and imprisonment. It is possible to suggest that these are issues that can best be dealt with by political parties. But what are we to do in the absence of such free and independent institutions in our country?”
This was the second time that the award was won by an Iranian journalist. Last year, Emaddedin Baghi won the International Journalist of the Year prize.
Kaboudvand is a prominent human rights defender, journalist, and founder in 2005 of a group that seeks to protect the rights of Iranian Kurds, the Human Rights Organization of Kurdistan (HROK). The group grew to include 200 local reporters throughout the Iranian Kurdish region, allowing it to provide detailed and timely reports from throughout the region, published in the now-banned newspaper Payam-e Mardom (Message of the People) for which Kaboudvand was the managing director and editor. Through his human rights and journalism work, Kaboudvand was instrumental in creating a civil society network for Kurdish youth and activists. He is also the author of three books, Nimeh-ye Digar ("The Other Half," a book on women's rights), Barzakh-e Democracy ("The Stuggle for Democracy"), and Jonbesh-e Ejtemaii ("Social Movements").
Other nominees International Journalist of the Year category were: Abdulkarim Al-Khaiwani, Former Editor-in-chief, Al-Shoura of Yemen, Anastasia Baburova, Journalist on the bi-weekly Novaya Gazeta of Russia, Eynulla Fatullayev, of Azerbaijan, Haci Bogatekin, Owner and editor of the local fortnightly Gerger Firat of Turkey and Jestina Mukoko of Zimbabwe.
Nazenin Ansari London