Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Sayed Ali Khamenei. (AP)

CPJ Impact

News from the Committee to Protect Journalists, April 2010

Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Sayed Ali Khamenei. (AP)
Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Sayed Ali Khamenei. (AP)
More than 3,500 petition Iran to free journalists, writers

As the leading sponsor of “Our Society Will Be a Free Society,” a joint campaign with 15 other human rights organizations seeking the release of dozens of jailed journalists in Iran, CPJ helped gather more than 3,500 signatures on a petition to Iran’s Supreme leader Ayatollah Sayed Ali Khamenei. The campaign name stems from the 1978 pledge of Khamenei’s predecessor, Sayyed Ruhollah Mousavi Khomeini, who said on the eve of the revolution: “Our future society will be a free society, and all the elements of oppression, cruelty, and force will be destroyed.”

The petition, delivered on April 6 to Iran’s Permanent Mission in New York, was signed by more than 50 prominent writers and journalists such as Martin Amis, Jon Lee Anderson, Margaret Atwood, E.L. Doctorow, Jonathan Franzen, Thomas L. Friedman, Nadine Gordimer, Gwen Ifill, Ahmed Rashid, Jon Stewart, and Mario Vargas Llosa. The entire list can be viewed on the campaign Web site.

“We hope those in jail will be heartened by this level of international attention,” said Joel Simon, CPJ’s executive director. “By collecting these names from all corners of the world, we want to convey to our imprisoned colleagues the depth of our concern and to Iranian authorities the depth of our outrage.”

As of April 1, at least 35 journalists were jailed in Iran. Another 18 were free on short-term furloughs coinciding with the Iranian New Year. CPJ has been conducting a monthly census of journalists jailed in Iran, now the world’s worst jailer of the press. Those interested in joining the petition may still do so by visiting the “Our Society Will Be a Free Society” campaign at

Journalists released from prison

On March 19, we welcomed the release from prison of Azerbaijani editor Genimet Zakhidov, who served more than half of a four-year term on fabricated “hooliganism” charges in retaliation for his critical journalism. Zakhidov, editor of the Baku-based, pro-opposition daily Azadlyg, told CPJ that he will resume work after a short break. 

CPJ is calling for the release of three journalists still in prison in Azerbaijan: editor Eynulla Fatullayev and video bloggers Emin Milli and Adnan Hajizade, all of whom have been imprisoned for their work.

Last month, CPJ also welcomed the release of three Yemeni journalists from prison, one week after CPJ wrote to President Ali Abdullah Saleh about their cases: Muhammad al-Maqaleh, editor of the Yemeni Socialist Party news Web site Aleshteraki. Al-Maqaleh was kidnapped in September 2009 but appeared in government custody in February alleging that he had been tortured. Fuad Rashid, editor-in-chief of Mukalla ‎Press Web site, was released along with all detainees in connection with anti-government protests in Hadramout province. Hisham Bashraheel, editor of the daily Al-Ayyam, who had been in custody since January 6, was released for “health reasons.”

CPJ expands protection of online journalists

We welcome Danny O’Brien, CPJ’s Internet advocacy coordinator, a new position created to track the growing threats to online journalists around the world. Danny joins CPJ from the Electronic Frontier Foundation where he was international outreach coordinator.

Danny has documented and fought for digital rights for over a decade. In 2006, he helped found the Open Rights Group, a grassroots British digital rights organization and assisted in building tools for open democracy like Fax Your MP. Danny has also worked as a journalist covering technology and culture for Wired UK, The Sunday Times of London, and The Irish Times.

New pages for CPJ’s Journalist Assistance program

CPJ has revamped pages on our Web site for Journalist Assistance and the Global Campaign Against Impunity. The redesigns highlight the great work done by the two programs and offer more practical content for journalists. Be sure to watch the compelling story of “A Somali Journalist in Exile.”

Impunity Summit

On April 20-21, CPJ, along with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and IFEX, will sponsor “Fighting Back: Bringing the Killers of Journalists to Justice,” a two-day summit on impunity at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. The event will gather leading press freedom experts and advocates to examine strategies fighting impunity.

On the evening of April 20, CPJ and Knight Foundation will co-sponsor a panel discussion on impunity called “Fighting Back: Bringing the Killers of Journalists to Justice,” a panel discussion on the topic of impunity featuring panelists: Owais Aslam Ali, secretary-general, Pakistan Press Foundation, Pakistan; Melinda Quintos de Jesus, executive director, Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, Philippines; María Teresa Ronderos, director,, and president, Foundation for a Free Press (FLIP), Colombia; Sergey Sokolov, deputy editor, Novaya Gazeta, Russia. The panel will be moderated by Kathleen Carroll, executive editor, The Associated Press. Joel Simon, executive director of CPJ, will present CPJ’s 2010 Global Impunity Index.  Nicholas Lemann, dean of the Graduate School of Journalism, will give opening remarks; Lee C. Bollinger, president of Columbia University, will give the closing remarks.

CPJ is grateful to the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation for underwriting its Global Campaign Against Impunity.