Newsletter No 8 29 November 2005
Press Freedom:
WAN Calls for Release of Golden Pen Winner

The World Association of Newspapers has asked the President of Iran, Mahmud Ahmadi-Nejad, to unconditionally release the laureate of its 2006 Golden Pen of Freedom, journalist Akbar Ganji.

"His release would be recognized by all international observers as an act of justice and strength by your government," WAN said in its letter to the President.

Mr Ganji, who is serving the fourth year of a six-year sentence, was chosen by the WAN Board on 15 November as the 2006 laureate of the annual WAN press freedom prize.

Mr Ganji is author of the book, "Dungeon of Ghosts," in which he implicates former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and other leading conservative figures in the murders of five writers and intellectuals in 1998. The book is said to have been a major factor in the conservative defeat in parliamentary elections in February 2000.

Mr Ganji was arrested in April 2000 following his participation in a Berlin conference in which political and social reform in Iran were publicly debated. He was convicted under a draconian law for "insulting religious edicts and figures, threatening national security and dissemination of propaganda against the Islamic system."

He has reportedly been tortured in prison and has gone on two long hunger strikes.

To read the full letter from WAN, consult