Index on Censorship calls on Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani, head of the judiciary in Iran, to overturn the sentences handed down this week to the film directors Jafar Panahi and Mohammad Rasoulof. Jafar Panahi was sentenced this week to six years in prison for “colluding in the gathering and making of propaganda against the regime”. He is also banned from making films, writing scripts, travelling abroad and talking to the media for 20 years. Mohammad Rasoulof also received a prison sentence of six years.
In a letter to Ayatollah Larijani, Index on Censorship’s chief executive John Kampfner says:
We would like to remind you that Iran’s own constitution guarantees the right to freedom of expression, the essential condition for any artist to engage in their work and enjoy the freedom to create. We therefore ask you to guarantee this most fundamental of human rights to Mr Panahi, Mr Rasoulof and all artists, academics and journalists currently facing similar sentences.
Index on Censorship urges the Iranian government to recognise Jafar Panahi and Mohammad Rasoulof as ambassadors for Iran’s creative culture, instead of treating them as criminals. “The Islamic Republic’s continuing crackdown on artists, journalists and writers can only harm the future of its people,” writes John Kampfner in his letter.
Jafar Panahi is amongst Iran’s leading film directors. His first film The White Balloon won the Camera d’Or at the Cannes film festival in 1995 and he was awarded the Golden Lion in 2000 for his film The Circle.
Speaking in support of Jafar Panahi, documentary filmmaker Kim Longinotto says:
Jafar Panahi has been an inspiration for me and my friends for many years. His poetic, sensitive and gripping films tell complex stories with well-rounded characters that he treats with great affection and respect. His films never tell us what to think, or give easy answers — they allow us to discover things for ourselves. He gives me hope for a future where men and women can truly identify with one another’s experiences.