Open letter to Ayatollah Khamenei
11 Feb 2010

On the 31st anniversary of the Islamic revolution, Index on Censorship and international free speech campaigners call on Iran to release the more than 60 writers, journalists, and bloggers currently in prison

From Index on Censorship, the Committee to Protect Journalists, PEN, Reporters Sans Frontières, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, and the International Publishers Association

February 10, 2010

Dear Ayatollah Khamenei,

We, the undersigned, organisations dedicated to freedom of expression, are writing on the 31st anniversary of the Iranian Revolution to urge you to free all writers, journalists, and editors currently in prison for carrying out their professions in Iran.

During the 1979 Iranian Revolution, Ayatollah Khomenei spoke of building a new society that would protect human rights and celebrate the Iranian people’s freedom of expression. In fact, in an interview on November 7, 1978, he pledged that “Our future society will be a free society and all the elements of oppression, cruelty, and force will be destroyed.” Sadly, in many of the years since then, and most especially since last year’s presidential elections, the world has seen the Iranian government betray these principles, openly suppressing dissent, silencing journalists, writers, and bloggers, and jailing citizens from all walks of life who joined or supported peaceful demonstrations.

As organisations representing journalists, writers, publishers, and free expression advocates around the world, we are especially concerned about the toll these actions have taken on our colleagues in Iran. By our count, at least 60 writers, journalists, and bloggers remain behind bars today in violation of the protections guaranteed in the Islamic Republic of Iran’s constitution and in international law. This list constitutes the largest number of our colleagues jailed by any country on earth at one time in over a decade.

On February 15, Iran will come before the United Nation’s Human Rights Council as part of the UN’s Universal Periodic Review process. The report that your own country submitted to the Human Rights Council notes that Iran’s constitution guarantees “human dignity, political and civil rights that include democracy, prohibition of depriving people of their fundamental freedoms,…freedom of expression, respect for the privacy of people, freedom of political parties and peaceful assemblies, prohibition of arbitrary arrests,” and that “All forms of torture for the purpose of extracting confession or acquiring information are forbidden.” Yet the crackdown on free expression in the last eight months, and the dozens of writers, journalists, and bloggers still behind bars in your country, tell quite another story.

We do not ask you to act outside your laws or the ideals of the Iranian revolution. Rather, we entreat you to uphold the pledges of Ayatollah Khomenei and the promises of the Iranian constitution by releasing all writers, journalists, and bloggers currently behind bars for covering the news and expressing their views in Iran.


Lisa Appignanesi, President
English PEN

John Kampfner, Chief Executive
Index on Censorship

Paul Steiger, Board Chairman
Committee to Protect Journalists

Marian Botsford Frasier, Chair
Writers in Prison Committee of International PEN

Kwame Anthony Appiah, President
PEN American Center

Jean-François Julliard, Secretary General
Reporters Sans Frontières

Annie Game, Executive Director
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression

Jens Bammel, General Secretary
International Publishers Association

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4 responses to “Open letter to Ayatollah Khamenei”

  1. Brandon Flynn says:

    Has there been any follow-up or response to this letter?

  2. PH. MD. ZIAUR RAHAMAN says:


  3. […] While the Constitution provides for limited freedom of the press, this is often not allowed at all.  The 2009 Press Law is vaguely construed to allow the government leeway to imprison journalists; the broadcast press is highly regulated.  Soon after  the 2009 election more than one hundred journalists were arrested, and by February 2010, sixty of them were still imprisoned. […]

  4. […] should be allowed to visit the country at the earliest opportunity, said representatives of the “Our Society Will Be a Free Society” campaign, in Geneva to observe the UN Human Rights Council’s review of Iran’s record […]