DW is awarding the Freedom of Speech Award to Iranian political scientist Sadegh Zibakalam. DW Director General Peter Limbourg is going to present the prize to Zibakalam at the Global Media Forum in Bonn on June 12.
Sadegh Zibakalam, a political science professor at the University of Tehran, is one of the most recognized political analysts in Iran. He was sentenced to 18 months in prison in April after criticizing the Iranian government in an interview with DW about the latest unrest in the country. Zibakalam is appealing the court decision and has not been taken into custody. Sadegh Zibakalam has become a prominent representative of the skeptical sections of civil society. He has repeatedly taken on regime hardliners and has publicly commented on sensitive issues pertaining to both domestic and foreign policy issues in Iran, such as Tehran's nuclear program. Zibamalam has been well known for his reformist mindset since the 1970s. In 1974, while completing his studies in the United Kingdom, he was arrested by the Shah’s secret police during a visit to Iran. He was accused of "sabotaging against the government" and spreading "propaganda." DW Director General Peter Limbourg said that "Deutsche Welle's utmost concern is to reach people who live in countries with limited freedom of speech and the press and to provide them with reliable information. One of those countries is Iran where people are being systematically kept from being able to access information. The 2018 Freedom of Speech Award is intended to serve as an encouragement to civil society in Iran while also criticizing the government for its decision to prosecute Zibakalam for expressing his opinion." He added that DW would continue its work to deliver news and information to the people of Iran, even when much of DW’s content is blocked. "That being said, it is also my opinion that our government needs to treat efforts to actively block such information as a hostile act during any diplomatic exchange with countries like Iran," Limbourg said.