Iranian dissident Akbar Ganji receives Leipzig Media Prize

Medienpreisträger 2007: Akbar Ganji

Iranian journalist and writer Akbar Ganji received the "Prize for the Freedom and Future of the Media" on Thursday, 26 November, 2009. The prize was already awarded to Ganji in 2007 but at that time he could not receive it personally.

Akbar Ganji belatedly received his award from Dr. Harald Langenfeld, CEO of the Media Foundation and the Sparkasse Leipzig at the Leipzig Media Campus. Ganji was honoured for his unshakeable courage, with which he stands up for democracy and freedom of press in Iran.

Akbar Ganji suffered bitterly for his commitment. After attending an Iran conference of the Heinrich-Böll-Foundation in Berlin, he was arrested in Tehran in April 2000. As he had published numerous articles in which he blamed the Iranian regime of murders of political opponents and intellectual dissidents, he was sentenced to ten years of imprisonment and five years of exile because of "propaganda against theocracy, endangering of state security and insulting the leadership." This sentence was later reduced to six years, but Ganji could not be silenced. In prison, he wrote a paper highly regarded after its appearance, in which he denounced the structures of power of the Islamic country and the human rights violations. His terms of responsibility were then made more severe. He was repeatedly and severely tortured, went on a hunger strike in protest and nevertheless resisted to pledge allegiance to the "Supreme Leader of the State". He was released from prison on 18 March 2006.

In 2007, the Bulgarian TV-reporter Vasil Ivanov and Dr. Wolfram Weimer, former editor in chief of the German magazine Cicero and designated editor in chief of the magazine Focus, received the 30,000 Euro "Prize for the Freedom and Future of the Media" along with Ganji.

The "Prize for the Freedom and Future of the Media" is awarded to journalists, media institutions as well as publishers who stand up for the freedom of press with willingness to take risks, commitment and courage. The laureates are selected by the board of trustees consisting - amongst others – of editors in chief, television correspondents and writers from suggestions of the national and international media scene.

Every year, the award ceremony takes place on 8 October, which is the eve of the anniversary of the Peaceful Revolution in the former GDR in the fall of 1989, that introduced the fall of Berlin Wall and the reunification. On 8 October, 2010 the "Prize for the Freedom and Future of the Media" will be awarded for the tenth time. On this occasion, the Media Foundation of the Sparkasse Leipzig will invite all previous laureates to come to Leipzig again.

The Foundation asks for proposals for the award of the Leipzig "Prize for the Freedom and Future of the Media" until 28 February 2010.

An overview of all laureates since 2001 is available here.