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Last Updated:  Tuesday, 18 March, 2003, 10:52 GMT
Sheen defends anti-war views
Martin Sheen
Sheen has received hate mail for his anti-war views
West Wing star Martin Sheen has defended Hollywood stars' right to oppose war with Iraq in an opinion piece in a US newspaper.

"Whether celebrity or diplomat, cabdriver or student, all deserve a turn at the podium," Sheen wrote in the Los Angeles Times on Monday.

The actor, 62, who plays the US president in the drama, criticised people who were attacking actors' views "solely due to our celebrity status".

He led a "virtual march" to oppose a war with Iraq, calling on people to deluge Washington with e-mails, faxes and phone calls. Fellow entertainers Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon and Barbra Streisand have also been involved.

He said celebrity activists had a responsibility to the public because their views were more likely to receive press attention.

"As a result, we are often called to give voice to the voiceless and a presence to the marginalised," Sheen wrote.

The actor's comments come after he received hate mail for his vocal opposition to America's military build-up.

Ratings concern

He has also faced calls for him to be axed from the West Wing because of his vociferous campaigning.

Bosses at the NBC network were apparently concerned his efforts could harm the show's ratings, the actor said.

The network later said it was respecting Sheen's right to free speech.

The article was published next to a piece by Esra Naama, an Iraqi-American from San Diego, who wrote telling of her family's escape from Saddam Hussein's regime in 1992.

She is urging action to be taken to end Hussein's power.

"When Martin Sheen, Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon and Barbra Streisand speak about the Iraqi people, they are not speaking about people like me," wrote Naama.

Recently, The Screen Actors Guild expressed its concern that actors who choose to express their reservations about war are being blacklisted.

The union has called for stars to be allowed to speak their minds without fear of losing their jobs.

Martin Sheen: 'President' under fire
07 Mar 03 |  Newsmakers
Sheen backlash over war stance
04 Mar 03 |  Entertainment
Hollywood's march against war
28 Feb 03 |  Entertainment
Sheen leads 'virtual' Iraq protest
21 Feb 03 |  Entertainment
Clooney in anti-war protest
20 Jan 03 |  Entertainment

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