An editor who has been threatened with death by the Taliban and jailed by the Pakistani government has won the 2009 Golden Pen of Freedom prize.
The award, from the World Association of Newspapers, has been given to Najaam Sethi, editor-in-chief of the Friday Times and Daily Times in Pakistan.
Sethi, whose newspapers advocate liberal and secular ideas, was honoured for what WAN said was ‘his outstanding defence and promotion of press freedom under difficult circumstances and constant personal danger”.
The WAN board said: ‘All journalists are aware of the dangers of inciting extremists who violently oppose reporting that is contrary to their view of the world.
‘Mr Sethi has chosen, in a region fraught with such dangers, to brave them. His commitment to providing truthful and independent coverage in this region, despite great personal danger and sacrifice, is in the best traditions of journalism. We think the award will inspire others to resist such pressure.”
According to WAN the Taliban have threatened to kill him if he does not change his editorial policy. He has also received death threats from radical Muslim groups after he published a cartoon that depicted Umme Hassaan, principal of a radical women’s school, ‘educating’female students to wage jihad and embrace martyrdom.
Sethi was imprisoned in May 1999 for ‘anti-national activities’after he participated in a BBC documentary in which he spoke negatively of then-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and about corruption in the Pakistani government.
He was released after six weeks after an international outcry.