Jailed Iranian reporter wins press freedom award

A leading 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 at the opening ceremonies of the World Newspaper Congress and
World Editors Forum in Moscow, 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 months-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. Hard-liners have taken over
Parliament and ultra-conservative President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is
puring 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."

The
award citation from WAN said Ganji's "streadfast refusal to be
silenced, at great personal cost, is an inspiration to journalists
everywhere".

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