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Jailed Syrian journalist and human rights activist Nizar Nayyouf, editor of the monthly journal "The Voice of Democracy", has won the 1998 Reporters sans frontières (RSF)-Fondation de France prize.
RSF says Nayyouf, who has been imprisoned since 1992, is suffering from Hodgkin's disease and is at risk of dying in prison if he does not receive treatment soon. T

he award was presented in absentia on 18 November in Paris, France. According to RSF, "Nayyouf was arrested on 10 January 1992 and sentenced by a military court on 17 March to ten years in jail and deprivation of his civic rights for writing leaflets for the Committee for the Defence of Democratic Freedoms in Syria (CDF), a human rights group which the government regards as a 'terrorist organisation.'"

As well as editing the CDF's monthly journal, "The Voice of Democracy", Nayyouf was a contributor to the weekly "Al-Hurriya" and the literary magazine "Al-Thaqafa Al-Ma'arifa".

Nayyouf is being held in solitary confinement at Mezze military prison, Damascus, where military authorities are keeping him until he signs a confession that he "made false statements concerning the human rights situation in Syria" and promises to relinquish his political activities.

Nayyouf also has medical problems caused by torture and poor prison conditions, including being paralysed in his lower body. RSF condemns his inhumane treatment, noting "his cell measures only seven feet by nine and he has not seen the sun for six years."

The RSF-Fondation de France Prize, which is worth 50,000 francs (about US$8,800), has been awarded annually since 1992 to "journalists who, through their work or attitudes, have demonstrated their devotion to press freedom." Previous winners include Nigerian journalist Chris Anyanwu, Turkish journalist Isik Yurtcu and Cuban journalist Raúl Rivero.

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