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In a year when religious extremism tore through Pakistan, the World Association of Newspapers (WAN) has honoured the editor of two Pakistani independent, secular publications with its annual Golden Pen of Freedom Award.

Najaam Sethi is the editor of the "Friday Times" and "Daily Times", papers known for their strong editorial line condemning autocracy and religious fundamentalism. Being at the helm of the newspapers has put Sethi at odds with both the Pakistani authorities and religious groups for years. He has been threatened with death by the Taliban and other radical Muslim groups, and has been jailed and beaten for offending the government. His home and office are now under constant guard.

Despite the risks, Sethi says he will not be silenced. "Extremists have always used coercion to silence their critics and that is exactly what is happening now," Sethi says. "This is a battle that the media and the country cannot afford to lose."

"All journalists are aware of the dangers of inciting extremists who violently oppose reporting that is contrary to their view of the world," said WAN's board when it announced their decision. "Sethi has chosen, in a region fraught with such dangers, to brave them. His commitment to providing truthful and independent coverage in this region, despite great personal danger and sacrifice, is in the best traditions of journalism. We think the award will inspire others to resist such pressure."

The award will be presented at WAN's World Newspaper Congress and World Editors Forum, which will be held in Hyderabad, India from 22 to 25 March next year:

More details of the award and a list of laureates can be found at:

(17 December 2008)

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