An independent jury of 12 global media professionals chose Ahmad Zeidabadi as the laureate of this year's Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization said Thursday in a release.
The selection of Zeidabadi "pays a tribute to his exceptional courage, resistance and commitment to freedom of expression, democracy, human rights, tolerance, and humanity," jury president Diana Senghor said from UNESCO's headquarters in Paris.
Irina Bokova, UNESCO director-general, called on Iranian leaders to release Zeidabadi, currently serving a six-year jail sentence to be followed by five years of internal exile and a lifetime ban from working as a journalist. He was charged with plotting to overthrow the Iranian government with a "soft revolution."
Zeidabadi is a former editor-in-chief of Azad newspaper; a contributor to Hamshahari, the BBC's Persian-language service, and the Persian-English news Web site Rooz. He is also a professor of political science. Since 2000, he has been frequently jailed because of his work.
UNESCO said at least 26 journalists were imprisoned after a wave of arrests following Iran's disputed presidential election in June 2009.