New York, May 3, 2001 ƒ The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) received a message from imprisoned Iranian journalist Mashallah Shamsolvaezin to his “colleagues all over the world” on World Press Freedom Day, May 3, the same day that CPJ placed the man responsible for Shamsolvaezin’s imprisonment, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, at the top of its list of the world’s Ten Worst Enemies of the Press.
Shamsolvaezin, a reformist editor of several now-banned Iranian dailies, was jailed in April, 2000, after being sentenced to 30 months imprisonment for allegedly insulting Islamic principles by publishing an article that criticized capital punishment in Iran. He was a recipient last year of CPJ’s International Press Freedom Award for courage and independence in reporting the news.
“Despite languishing in jail, I’ve celebrated this day”
The imprisoned journalist called World Press Freedom Day “a day of memories, risks, and hopes” in his message from Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison to “journalists all over the world, especially the oppressed Iranian journalists.” He wrote, “Despite languishing in jail, I’ve celebrated this day together with my other journalist colleagues in prison and share the feelings of journalists all over the world.” He asked that people remember those journalists who have “sacrificed their life to protect press freedoms and spared no efforts in strengthening the fourth pillar of democracy.”
“They can never kill the thought of freedom”
Shamsolvaezin’s message concludes that World Press Freedom Day “gives us the opportunity to remind those who covertly or overtly are involved in jailing journalists and breaking their pens that they can never kill the thought of freedom.”
CPJ executive director Ann Cooper called Shamsolvaezin’s statement “a powerful message to leaders around the world, that imprisoning journalists for their writings will not destroy their desire to report and comment on the news independently.” She added “We intend to continue to work for the release of Shamsolvaezin and journalists around the world.”
Ayatollah Khamenei, the religious leader who exercises enormous influence over key institutions in Iran, instigated an unsparing campaign of repression in April 2000 that continues to this day and has shuttered the country’s vibrant reformist press by closing dozens of newspapers and jailing outspoken journalists.
For the three years before his imprisonment, Shamsolvaezin was a leading force in the burgeoning Iranian reformist press, and is widely regarded as its dean. As editor of the ground-breaking dailies Jameah, Tous, Neshat, and Asr-e-Azadegan, he saw each one successively banned by Tehran’s Press Court between 1998 and 2000. His papers published a broad range of political opinions, including not only those of exiled dissidents and reformists but of conservatives as well.