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VOA Persian Producer Awarded 2009 Hellman/Hammett Grant

In addition to work at VOA, is a prominent member of Iran's online dissident community

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Washington, D.C., October 14, 2009 – Arash Sigarchi, an Iranian-born producer for the Voice of America (VOA), is among this year's recipients of the prestigious Hellman/Hammett grant awarded to writers who have been targets of political persecution. It is the second time Sigarchi has been so honored.

"We're delighted to have a writer of Arash's skill, courage and commitment on the Persian News Network's (PNN) team," said Alex Belida, PNN's acting director. "It's inspirational."

In addition to his work at VOA, Sigarchi is a prominent member of Iran's online dissident community, using his blog, "Panjare Eltehab" ("Window of Anguish" in English) to report on human rights violations in Iran.

In 2005, Sigarchi, then 27, was arrested in Iran during a government crackdown and convicted of espionage and undermining national security. Sentenced to three years in prison, he served 14 months before he was granted medical leave because of a cancer diagnosis. In 2008, Sigarchi fled to the United States and was granted asylum.

"I am honored that my work on behalf of Iran's people is being recognized and supported internationally," said Sigarchi. "It is important that Iranians feel we are not forgotten."

Sigarchi, who also won a Hellman/Hammett grant in 2007, is one of 37 recipients this year. Eighteen of the recipients remain anonymous to protect themselves and their families.

The Hellman/Hammett grants are administered by Human Rights Watch. The program began in 1989 when American playwright Lillian Hellman stipulated in her will that her estate should be used to assist writers in financial need as a result of expressing their views.

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VOA's Persian News Network has the largest combined radio and television audience of all international broadcasters in Iran, with one in four adult Iranians tuning in to a VOA program at least once a week. VOA's PNN produces six hours of original news and information television programming daily, repeated in a 24-hour format, along with five hours of radio broadcasts. Programs are available on demand at

The Voice of America, which first went on the air in 1942, is a multimedia international broadcasting service funded by the U.S. Government through the Broadcasting Board of Governors. VOA broadcasts more than 1,500 hours of news, information, educational, and cultural programming every week to an estimated worldwide audience of more than 125 million people. Programs are produced in 45 languages. VOA is the leading U.S. international broadcaster.

For more information, call VOA Public Relations at (202) 203-4959, or e-mail