Ganji receives Golden Pen

An Iranian investigative journalist who was imprisoned for six years for his criticism of Iranian authorities has been awarded the Golden Pen press freedom prize from the World Association of Newspapers.

Accepting the award, Akbar Ganji dedicated it to “all Iranian dissidents and freedom-fighters”.

It was Ganji’s first address since he was released from prison on 18 March, weighing only 48 kilograms. Ganji had spent much of a six-year sentence in solitary confinement, facing torture and going on month-long hunger strikes.

Ganji was arrested in 2000 after participating in a Berlin conference on political reform in Iran and convicted the following year of “insulting religious edicts and figures, threatening

national security and dissemination of propaganda against the Islamic regime”.

George Brock, who presented the award as president of the World Editors Forum, said: “Though he is out of prison, Ganji is not yet free.

“Free political discussion is harder now than it was when his sentence began. The reformist movement is on the wane. Hardliners have taken over parliament and ultra-conservative president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is purging reformists from government.

Iran’s judiciary has closed down more than 100 pro-democracy publications in the past five years, including the papers that Ganji wrote for.

“It is unlikely that any newspaper would risk publishing Ganji’s writings today.”

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