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INDEX ON CENSORSHIP HONOURS "AL JAZEERA"

Index on Censorship (INDEX) has given a free-expression award to the Qatar-based satellite news network "Al Jazeera" for its "courage in circumventing censorship and contributing to the free exchange of information in the Arab world." INDEX says "Al Jazeera's" willingness to give opposition groups a high-profile platform has made it the most popular station in the Middle East but also led Arab and US governments to try muzzling its reporting.

INDEX also honoured Iranian professor and journalist Hashem Aghajari, former Australian ambassador to Cambodia Tony Kevin and British reporter Fergal Keane with awards.

Aghajari was sentenced to death in November 2002 for advocating religious reform in a speech he made earlier in June. He was given 74 lashes and banned from teaching for 10 years, INDEX says. A court recently quashed the sentence and ordered a re-trial. [See IFEX Alert:
www.ifex.org].

INDEX named Kevin its International Whistleblower of the Year for exposing the Australian government's cover-up of the sinking of Siev-X, a boat containing mostly Iraqi refugees, near Sumatra, Indonesia, in October 2001. Three hundred and fifty three people, including 100 children, died in the incident.

Although the Australian government publicly denied any responsibility for the incident, Kevin's investigation revealed that authorities knew the boat sank in international waters but refused to intervene. The incident occurred one week after the government launched a program to actively discourage asylum seekers from entering Australia (see "Sydney Morning Herald" story:
www.smh.com.au).

Meanwhile, INDEX recognised Zimbabwe's Minister of Information, Jonathan Moyo, for "services to censorship," saying Moyo "spins misinformation that denies the widespread use of detention without trial and torture and the corrupt misappropriation of land by [President Robert] Mugabe's cronies."

For full details of the award winners, go to:
www.indexonline.org


Visit these links:

- "Al Jazeera" Accused of Violating Geneva Convention:
www.indexonline.org/news


- The Siev-X Incident:
www.sievx.com


- Fergal Keane's Column for the "Independent":
www.independent.co.uk


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