Tuesday, July 19, 2005Today, as imprisoned Iranian journalist Akbar Ganji enters the 39th day of his hunger strike in Tehran, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) urges Prime Minister Paul Martin to call on Iranian authorities for his release. In 2000, Akbar Ganji was sentenced to six years in prison after writing a series of articles connecting high-level Iranian officials to the murders of several intellectuals in 1998. Prior to his imprisonment, Ganji was an investigative journalist for the now defunct Sobh-eEmrooz. In 2000, he was also the recipient of the CJFE International Press Freedom Award. He has reportedly been hospitalized due to his failing health and his family is said to have been denied access to him. Released on medical leave in May following an 11-day hunger strike, he resumed his protest when he was returned to Evin prison on June 11. "Mr. Ganji is a very brave man whose mistreatment by his government is attributable only to its wish to muzzle a critic who has courageously exposed outrageous government abuse in the past," said CJFE Executive Director Rod Macdonell. "If this abuse of Ganji continues much longer, the Iranian authorities will turn him into a martyr. Releasing him is a better option for the government of Iran as he will likely become a thorn in its side, which, in true democracies, is what good journalists ought to be, and what accountable governments must endure." According to the Reuters news agency, Ganji has lost 40 pounds and is suffering from acute asthma that he developed in prison. He has been repeatedly denied medical treatment and his family fears that his sentence will be extended to prevent his release. His on-going persecution has already cost him more than five years of freedom and now it may cost him is life. CJFE calls on the Prime Minister Martin and the Government of Canada to join with the European Union and the President of the United States in denouncing the treatment of Akbar Ganji by the Iranian government and to demand his unconditional release. CJFE is an association of more than 300 journalists, editors, publishers, producers, students and others who work to promote and defend free expression and press freedom in Canada and around the world. For more information, contact Julie Payne at (416) 515-9622 or e-mail:firstname.lastname@example.org
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