More than 3,500 petition Iran to release journalists, writers

Toronto, April 6, 2010—More than 3,500 concerned people from around the world—including prominent international journalists, writers, and press freedom leaders— are petitioning Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Sayed Ali Khamenei, to immediately release dozens of journalists, writers, and bloggers currently imprisoned in the country.

Among the respected journalists, writers, and other individuals who have signed the petitions are Martin Amis, Jon Lee Anderson, Margaret Atwood, E.L. Doctorow, Jonathan Franzen, Thomas L. Friedman, Nadine Gordimer, Gwen Ifill, Ahmed Rashid, Jon Stewart, and Mario Vargas Llosa.

A coalition of free expression organizations delivered the petition today to the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York. Petitioners’ names were collected through Facebook and the “Our Society Will Be a Free Society” campaign, a coalition project dedicated to winning the freedom of all journalists jailed in Iran. Additional names of prominent petitioners can be viewed on the campaign website.

“Our message to the journalists and writers in prison in Iran is that we have not forgotten you” said Annie Game, executive director of CJFE, one of the sponsors of the petition drive. “The Iranian authorities should know that the world community of free expression organisations continues to watch them and urges them to end this outrage.”

The petitioners urge Ayatollah Khamenei to release all journalists, writers, and bloggers now behind bars and to uphold the pledge of his predecessor, Sayyed Ruhollah Mousavi Khomeini, who said in 1978 on the eve of the revolution: “Our future society will be a free society, and all the elements of oppression, cruelty, and force will be destroyed.”

At least 34 journalists were jailed in Iran on April 1, according to research by the Committee to Protect Journalists, one of 16 international free expression groups involved in the campaign. Another 18 journalists were free on short-term furloughs coinciding with the Iranian New Year, but were expected to report back to prison this week. CPJ has been conducting a monthly census of journalists jailed in Iran, now the world’s worst jailer of the press.

The petition effort was organized by a coalition of 16 international free expression groups: Article 19; Canadian Journalists for Free Expression; CPJ; Index on Censorship; Freedom House; International PEN; Institute of Mass Information; International Federation of Journalists; International Women’s Media Foundation; International Publishers Association; National Press Club; Observatory for the Freedom of Press, PEN American Center; Publishing and Creation; Reporters Without Borders; World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers and World Press Freedom Committee;

Those interested in joining the petition may still do so by visiting the “Our Society Will Be a Free Society” campaign website.