Three imprisoned Iranian female journalists have been awarded UNESCO's Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize “for their commitment to truth and accountability.”
The winners of the 2023 UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize include Niloofar Hamedi and Elaheh Mohammadi, who have been incarcerated for seven months for covering the events surrounding Mahsa Amini’s death in police custody.
Amini’s September 2022 death sparked months-long protests across Iran demanding fundamental economic, social and political changes.
The third winner is Narges Mohammadi, who has worked for years as a journalist and has long been a vocal critic of the repressive government policies and human rights violations in Iran. She is serving a long-term prison sentence.
“We are committed to honoring the brave work of Iranian female journalists whose reporting led to a historical women-led revolution,” UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay said.
“They paid a hefty price for their commitment to report on and convey the truth. And for that, we are committed to honoring them and ensuring their voices will continue to echo worldwide until they are safe and free.”
In late April, Iran’s judiciary announced that Hamedi, a reporter for the Tehran-based Shargh Daily, and Mohammadi of the daily newspaper Hammihan had been indicted on charges of "collaborating with the hostile American government, colluding against national security and engaging in propaganda activity” against the regime.
Mohammadi has been repeatedly detained and imprisoned by the authorities, and she is currently serving a 16-year prison sentence in Tehran’s Evin Prison.
In a statement read out by her husband Taghi Rahmani in a video clip posted on her Instagram account, Mohammadi reiterated that she would not participate in any court proceedings, saying she does not recognize the “authoritarian, religious and misogynistic regime" in Iran.
"The violent suppression of journalists, members of the press, human rights defenders and universities, as well as the suppression of civil society and its institutions…have put freedom of expression in Iran at risk," she added.
Iranian authorities have cracked down hard on the women-led protest movement, killing more than 520 people in demonstrations and unlawfully detaining over 20,000, activists say. Following biased trials, the judiciary has handed down stiff sentences, including the death penalty, to protesters.
According to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, at least 95 journalists were arrested since the eruption of the anti-government protests.