His Excellency Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
President of the Islamic Republic of Iran
We are writing on the occasion of 3 May, World Press Freedom Day, to call
for the release of journalist Roxana Saberi and all others held for
exercising their right to freedom of expression, and for a full and
transparent inquiry into the deaths of blogger Omidreza Mirsayafi and
photojournalist Zahra Kazemi.
Iranian-American freelance journalist Ms Saberi has been sentenced to
eight years in Tehran's notorious Evin Prison. She has been found
guilty of spying on behalf of the American government.
At least two journalists have died in Evin Prison in the past six years
in circumstances that remain not fully explained. Mr Mirsayafi, a
cultural blogger who was serving a two-and-a-half-year sentence for
insulting religious leaders, died in March in mysterious circumstances.
In 2003, Iranian-Canadian photojournalist Ms Kazemi, who was detained
for taking photographs outside Evin prison, died from a brain
haemorrhage after being beaten in the jail. A security agent was later
acquitted of her murder in a trial that was widely seen as flawed.
The imprisonment of Ms Saberi and the failure to fully explain the
deaths in custody of Mr Mirsayafi and Ms Kazemi constitutes a deep
blemish on the international standing of Iran.
We respectfully remind you that the incarceration of journalists for
their reporting constitutes a clear breach of their right to freedom of
expression, which is guaranteed by numerous international conventions,
including Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Furthermore, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights considers
that "detention, as punishment for the peaceful expression of an
opinion, is one of the most reprehensible ways to enjoin silence and,
as a consequence, a grave violation of human rights".
We respectfully call on you to make a break with history and to ensure
that Ms Saberi and all those held for exercising their right to freedom
of expression are released from jail immediately. We also urge you to do
everything possible to ensure that those responsible for the deaths of
Mr Mirsayafi and Ms Kazemi are swiftly brought to justice.
World Association of Newspapers
World Editors Forum
is the global organization for the newspaper industry, with formal
representative status at the United Nations, UNESCO and the Council of Europe.
The organization groups 18,000 newspapers in 102 countries, 12 news
agencies and 11 regional and world-wide press groups. WAN is
non-governmental and non-profit.