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SAUDI WRITER, GAMBIAN JOURNALIST WIN FREEDOM TO WRITE AWARDS

An imprisoned Saudi writer and a Gambian journalist gunned down for criticising his country's repressive media laws will be honoured at an awards ceremony in New York for defending the right to freedom of expression. Ali Al-Domaini and Deyda Hydara are the recipients of the 2005 PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Awards.

The two men will be honoured at PEN's annual gala on 20 April 2005 in New York. Established in 1987, the Freedom to Write Awards honour two writers each year who have fought courageously in the face of adversity for the right to freedom of expression.

Of the 37 award winners, 29 were in prison at the time they were honoured. Twenty seven of them have been subsequently released.

Ali Al-Domaini is a prominent writer in Saudi Arabia whose works include three collections of poetry and a novel. On 15 March 2004, he and eleven other leading Saudi intellectuals were arrested for criticising the newly-established National Commission on Human Rights (NCHR) and for planning to set up their own human rights organization.

Deyda Hydara, editor and co-founder of "The Point", was shot dead by unidentified gunmen on 16 December 2004. He and other independent journalists had publicly opposed new media laws that were criticised by international press freedom groups as being draconian. Hydara had also published an editorial denouncing the laws the day before he was killed. Hydara was working to establish a new PEN center in the Gambia at the time he was murdered.

For more information, see:

- PEN: http://www.pen.org/page.php/prmID/448
- The Murder of Hydara: http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=12899
- RSF Report: http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=12239
- Human Rights Watch Report on Saudi Arabia: http://hrw.org/english/docs/2005/01/13/saudia9810.htm

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