Yesterday, for the first time, the team at Index suspended its normal social media engagement. We stopped highlighting each attack on free speech around the world. We stopped giving comment on emerging events. Instead for 24 hours, we tweeted, on the hour, every hour, about one man – Ruhollah Zam.
We did this because Ruhollah’s story exemplifies why Index on Censorship exists. And because we are heartbroken at his death.
Ruhollah was executed by his government, the Islamic Republic of Iran.
His “crime” was to be journalist and a human rights activist – running an alternative news channel which criticised the Government. A brave and honourable endeavour.
Ruhollah’s “crime” was to exercise his rights as stated in Article 19 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights. For the record, Iran was an original signatory to the UN DHR. When they signed the declaration in 1948 they committed to a world where all of us have basic human rights. On Saturday, they ignored this commitment.
Ruhollah was killed by his government. He was hanged. He was silenced.
Please take a few minutes today to read about Ruhollah’s life – as with all of us he was more than his job title. He was a son, a husband and a father. His life touched literally hundreds of thousands of people because of his activism. His death must reach millions.
The Iranian execution of Ruhollah Zam is a stark reminder of why Index was launched nearly 50 years ago. We were established to shine a light on repressive regimes, to ensure that attacks on free expression were documented and to provide a home for the writings of dissidents when they couldn’t publish in the countries of their birth.
Ruhollah Zam embodied the fight for free expression and a free press. It’s now down to us to live up to his legacy and make sure that journalists, activists, artists, academics and writers know that they have a home and that someone is making sure that their voices are heard – even when they are incarcerated.
Ruhollah Zam, 27 July 1978 – 12 December 2020
May His Memory Be A Blessing