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Iranian journalist Akbar Ganji wins first Dialogue of Cultures award in UK

London, Nov 30, IRNA-Akbar Ganji has been been honored by the Foreign Press Association (FPA) in London by making the Iranian investigative journalist the first recipient of its `Dialogue of Cultures' Award.

The winners were announced at the FPA's annual awards ceremony on Tuesday night by Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, who described Ganji as a "brave writer."

"It is particularly appropriate that we should mark the contribution made by a writer and journalist from the Middle East," Straw said.

"For in choosing dialogue as the theme of this event, the Foreign Press Association is quite deliberately refuting the notion of an inevitable `clash of civilizations' -- and in particular of an unbridgeable divide between `Islam' and `the West,' he said.

The FPA in London is one of the oldest press clubs in the world.

It has some 700 members from the international media and allied organisations from over 70 countries.

The presentation of the new award marked the theme of this year's presentations to promote discussions between conflicting ideologies and cultures.

A Dialogue of Cultures, Straw said, "in its purest form -- is not just a conversation, an exchange views; it is a tough intellectual exercise which tests assertions and challenges misconceptions." Other awards presented at the annual ceremony included Radio Story of the Year for BBC prorgam, `Document: A very British coup' which gave a retrospective view on the extent that the BBC was to blame for the 1953 overthrow of the Mossadeq government in Iran.

The documentary delved into the BBC's history and uncovered confidential documents that indicate it was not as independent as perhaps it should have been.

Television Story of the Year was presented to the producers of a documentary on `This World -- Inside Israel's Jails,' a portrayal of the daily battle between uniformed Israeli guards and Palestinian prisoners that was shown on BBC.

Ali Fadhil won the award for `Young Journalist of the Year' for his `Aftermath of the Battle of Fallujah' -- the first independent witness showing images of bodies on the streets and questioned the US assault on the Iraqi city.

FPA Media Awards

Foreign Press Association Media Awards 2005
'A Dialogue of Cultures'

Winner: Iranian investigative journalist, Akbar Ganji

Akbar Ganji has been in prison for nearly six years for his writings, which implicate the regime's highest officials, including former president, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, and other leading conservative figures in the murders of five writers and intellectuals in 1998. Mr Ganji was sentenced for "taking part in an offence against national security" and "propaganda against the Islamic system." In July 2001, he was again brought to trial on charges of "collecting confidential state documents to jeopardise state security" and "spreading propaganda."

Mr Ganji has reportedly been tortured in prison and has gone on two long hunger strikes. He has defiantly refused to renounce his critique of the state, even if it could win his release.

Born in a poor neighbourhood of Tehran, the 46 year old became a radical Islamist while a teenager, rising to a leadership position in the Revolutionary Guards of the Islamic Republic. His intellectual thirst transformed him from a militant Islamist to an original thinker, a dissident, a defender of the universal concepts of democracy and human rights and an advocate of freedom of expression, separation of state from religion and peaceful civil resistance against tyranny.

Through his writings, Akbar Ganji has encouraged Iranians to cross the divide from a culture of fundamentalism to a culture of freedom. For this he risks losing his life.

He has said:

"My voice will not be silenced, for it is the voice of peaceful life, of tolerating the other, loving humanity, sacrificing for others, seeking truth and freedom, demanding democracy, welcoming different lifestyles, separating the private sphere and the public sphere, religion and state, promoting equality of all humans, rationality, and above all, a profound distaste for violence..."

The FPA will honour the life and work of Akbar Ganji by making him the first recipient of the "Dialogue of Cultures" Award.

... Payvand News - 11/30/05 ... --

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