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Sarkuhi honored at paper forum

By Ernst E. Abegg
Associated Press Writer
Monday, June 14, 1999

ZURICH, Switzerland (AP) -- Iranian editor Faraj Sarkuhi, who was imprisoned both before and after the country's Islamic revolution, received the Golden Pen of Freedom award Monday from the World Association of Newspapers.

Sarkuhi, former editor-in-chief of the banned monthly magazine Adineh, told 1,100 editors and publishers from 88 countries that ``international support and world pressure'' saved his life after he was condemned to death three times ``during the tyranny of the Islamic Republic.''

But defenders of press freedom must go beyond periodic reports on ``harsh methods used in despotic countries to control the media'' and do more to combat self-censorship, he told the group's 52nd annual meeting.

``Self-censorship resulting from fear caused by threats and acts of violence and cruelty is even more painful and harmful than traditional methods of control,'' Sarkuhi said.

Sarkuhi went into exile in Germany last year. Adineh, a monthly magazine of poetry and social criticism popular among Iranian intellectuals, had its license revoked last February.

Even though moderate President Mohammad Khatami has pushed for greater press freedom since his election in 1997, he remains locked in a power struggle with hard-liners.

Iran's judiciary has shut down six publications in recent months and arrested six journalists for allegedly publishing lies.

The association's annual study of world press trends presented Monday showed that newspapers in 27 of 32 countries where data is available enjoyed an increase in advertising revenues in 1998.

Circulation of daily newspapers fell by 1 percent in the United States, 0.5 percent across the European Union and 0.4 percent in Japan, the survey said. But advertising revenue in the United States reached $3.93 billion, up 6.2 percent over 1997. The figure for Europe was $20.3 billion, up 3.2 percent.

Brazil and some Asian countries, including Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia, had strong sales rises in 1998 despite their economic troubles, the association said.

Newspapers have ``digested'' the challenges of economic recession, a newsprint price crisis, new competition and the Internet, said Timothy Balding, the association's director-general.

``There is clear evidence that newspapers are making a comeback after a very long decade for the industry and that in many cases they are reversing or stabilizing the downward trends,'' he said.

The Paris-based World Association of Newspapers represents 15,000 newspapers around the world.


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