Crime & Justice, Gender Violence, Human Rights, Press Freedom, TerraViva United Nations

Three Imprisoned Iranian Women Journalists Awarded 2023 UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize

May 3 2023 - Niloofar Hamedi, Elaheh Mohammadi and Narges Mohammadi have been named as the laureates of the 2023 UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize, following the recommendation of an International Jury of media professionals. The awards ceremony took place on the evening of May 2 in New York, in the presence of Audrey Azoulay, Director General of UNESCO.

Now more than ever, it is important to pay tribute to all women journalists who are prevented from doing their jobs and who face threats and attacks on their personal safety. Today we are honouring their commitment to truth and accountability.
Audrey Azoulay UNESCO’s Director-General

We are committed to honoring the brave work of Iranian female journalists whose reporting led to a historical women-led revolution. 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.
Zainab Salbi Chair of the International Jury of media professionals

The three laureates

Niloofar Hamedi writes for the leading reformist daily newspaper Shargh. She broke the news of the death of Masha Amini following her detention in police custody on 16 September 2022. She has been detained in solitary confinement in Iran’s Evin Prison since September 2022.

Elaheh Mohammadi writes for the reformist newspaper, Ham-Mihan, covering social issues and gender equality. She reported on Masha Amini’s funeral, and has also been detained in Evin Prison since September 2022. She had previously been barred from reporting for a year in 2020 due to her work.

Niloofar Hamedi and Elaheh Mohammadi are joint winners of both the 2023 International Press Freedom Award by Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), and Harvard’s 2023 Louis M. Lyons Award for Conscience and Integrity in Journalism. They were named as two of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People of 2023.

Narges Mohammadi has worked for many years as a journalist for a range of newspapers and is also an author and Vice-Director of the Tehran-based civil society organization Defenders of Human Rights Center (DHRC). She is currently serving a 16-year prison sentence in Evin Prison. She has continued to report in print from prison, and has also interviewed other women prisoners. These interviews were included in her book “White Torture”. In 2022, she won the Reporters Without Borders’ (RSF) Courage Prize.

Women journalists under threat

Globally, women journalists and media workers face increasing offline and online attacks and are subject to disproportionate and specific threats. The gender-based violence they are exposed to includes stigmatization, sexist hate speech, trolling, physical assault, rape and even murder. UNESCO advocates for the safety of women journalists and collaborates with partners to identify and implement good practices and share recommendations with all parties involved in countering attacks against women journalists, as recognized by numerous UN resolutions.

In 2021, UNESCO published The Chilling, a study on global trends in online violence against women journalists, which demonstrated the extent of attacks against women journalists and the impact on their well-being, their work and press freedom at large. UNESCO works with partners to develop practical tools for journalists, media managers and newsrooms to respond to online and offline abuse. UNESCO also partners with specialized organizations to train women media workers on the ground and through online training courses, and works with security forces to sensitize them on freedom of expression with a gender focus.

About the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize

Created in 1997, the annual UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize honours a person, organization or institution which has made an outstanding contribution to the defence and/or promotion of press freedom anywhere in the world, especially when this has been achieved in the face of danger. It is the only such prize awarded to journalists within the UN System.

It is named for Guillermo Cano Isaza, the Colombian journalist who was assassinated in front of the offices of his newspaper El Espectador in Bogotá, Colombia, on 17 December 1986, and funded by the Guillermo Cano Isaza Foundation (Colombia), the Helsingin Sanomat Foundation (Finland), the Namibia Media Trust, Democracy & Media Foundation Stichting Democratie & Media (The Netherlands), and the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

About UNESCO’s action to protect journalists

UNESCO is the United Nations agency with a mandate to ensure freedom of expression and the safety of journalists around the world. It coordinates the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, which marked its 10th anniversary with a global conference in Vienna, Austria this year.

The Organization condemns and monitors judicial follow up to every journalist killing. It also trains journalists and judicial actors, works with governments to develop supportive policies and laws, and raises global awareness through events such as World Press Freedom Day (3 May) and the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists (2 November) held annually.


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