CPJ appeals for release of journalist

New York, April 10, 2001 — As Iranian newspaper editor Mashallah Shamsolvaezin marked the end of his first year in prison, CPJ today presented more than 350 petitions to the government of Iran calling for his immediate release and the release of at least six other Iranian journalists currently jailed for their work. The petitions were signed by leading journalists, media executives, and human rights activists.

“Shamsolvaezin and his colleagues continue to languish in ail merely for carrying out their professional duties,” said CPJ executive director Ann Cooper. “Justice demands their immediate release and an end to the campaign of repression against critical journalists in Iran.”

On November 21, 2000, CPJ honored the imprisoned Shamsolvaezin with an International Press Freedom Award in recognition of his courageous work.
Shamsolvaezin, the editor of a series of reformist Iranian newspapers that were successively banned by the country’s conservative-dominated judiciary, was imprisoned on April 10, 2000, after an appeals court sentenced him to 30 months in prison for allegedly insulting “Islamic principles” by publishing a 1999 article that criticized the death penalty in Iran. Following the 1997 election of President Muhammad Khatami, Shamsolvaezin emerged as the dean of a lively group of reformist journalists who pushed critical discourse in the Iranian press to levels that would have been unthinkable just a few years earlier.

Particularly since last year, the Iranian judiciary has waged a relentless campaign against the local reformist press, shutting down more than 30 newspapers and prosecuting and jailing outspoken journalists.

Among those signing the petitions, which call for the immediate release of Shamsolvaezin and the other imprisoned journalists, are Dan Rather of CBS News; Tom Brokaw of NBC News; Ambassador Richard Holbrooke; Alberto Ibargüen, publisher and chairman of The Miami Herald; Michel Martin of ABC News (who presented Shamsolvaezin’s International Press Freedom Award); Bill Pardue, president and CEO of Lexis-Nexis; John Seigenthaler of the Freedom Forum First Amendment Center; Mike Wallace of CBS News; Tom Goldstein, dean of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism; and CPJ chair Gene Roberts.

The petitions, circulated at CPJ’s annual International Press Freedom Awards dinner last November and collected thereafter, were addressed to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. They call on him to “uphold the right of all journalists to work freely and safely.” They were delivered by hand today in care of the Iranian Mission to the United Nations.