Najam Sethi, the former Editor-in-Chief of the Friday Times and Daily Times, Pakistan, was presented the “2009 Golden Pen of Freedom,” the annual press freedom prize of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA), during the opening ceremony of the 62nd World Newspaper Congress and 16th World Editors’ Forum (WEF) here on Tuesday.

Presenting the award, WEF president Xavier Vidal-Folch said Mr. Sethi had managed to anger both, the extremists and the government authorities, merely by doing his job, and “this is at the heart of why WAN-IFRA is honouring him today [Tuesday] with its Golden Pen of Freedom award — for carrying out his role as an independent journalist, for reporting and investigating all sides equally, and for being a voice of moderation, despite continuous threats and constant danger he faces.”

He said, “In presenting the Golden Pen to Mr. Sethi, we, in the international media community, express our solidarity with all independent Pakistani journalists who, despite difficult conditions, remain among the most outspoken in South Asia.”

The WAN-IFRA and WEF also called upon the Pakistani authorities to take all necessary measures to end theviolence against journalists and to commit to uphold international standards of freedom of expression and press.

President Pratibha Patil complimented Mr. Sethi.

In his acceptance speech, Mr. Sethi said the award reflected the fierce commitment and courage of South Asia’s free media to the perennial quest for reporting the truth and analysing it without fear or favour. Last year, many journalists died in the line of duty — seven each in India and Pakistan and two each in Afghanistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka. “The death toll is seven in Pakistan so far this year.” It was becoming increasingly difficult for journalists to remain independent and bi-partisan in this region.

Referring to ties between India and Pakistan, he said the media in both the countries were entrapped in narrow nationalism and cited examples of how it scuttled the two neighbours from reaching accords. He said the award would mean much more to him if it could advance his dream of everlasting peace in South Asia. “In that sense, it means that all of us have struck gold,” he added.