Azerbaijani journalist Eynulla Fatullayev, a press freedom advocate who was jailed by authorities, has won the prestigious UNESCO World Press Freedom Prize, the U.N. cultural body said Tuesday.
“Throughout his career, he has unfailingly and steadfastly spoken out for freedom of the press and freedom of expression,” UNESCO said in a statement announcing the award.
Fatullayev, 35, was released from prison last year after being imprisoned since 2007 on libel and terrorism charges and later for drugs-related offenses.
Media rights groups denounced his arrest and accused authorities of seeking to silence the journalist, who was the chief editor of two newspapers that were critical of the government in the energy-rich ex-Soviet state.
International rights groups and media-freedom organizations have repeatedly accused Azerbaijan of curbing free speech by jailing journalists and adopting restrictive media laws.
Dozens of journalists in Azerbaijan have been jailed in recent years under laws that make libel a criminal offence, rather than a civil matter, as in many Western countries.
The prize will be handed over in a ceremony to be held on World Press Freedom Day on May 3.
The award’s official title is the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize. It is named after a Colombian journalist murdered in 1986 after denouncing drug barons.
It was won last year by Iranian journalist Ahmad Zeidabadi.