WAN protests on World Press Freedom Day

The World Association of Newspapers has protested to the leaders of five countries yesterday, World Press Freedom Day, against the jailings and widespread attacks on journalists in their countries.

In letters to the presidents of Afghanistan, Iran, Cuba and Eritrea, the Paris-based WAN called for the release of journalists in prison.

In a letter to Mexican President Felipe Calderon, WAN called for an end to impunity for those who murder journalists, and for assurances that the right to freedom of expression will be protected in Mexico.

The letters have also been posted on WAN's World Press Freedom Day website, where they can be signed and sent by individuals who wish to join the letter-writing campaign.  The site also contains a package of stories, editorials, advertisements, inforgraphics and other materials on the theme, Journalists in the Firing Line, which are being published by thousands of newspapers world-wide to commemorate World Press Freedom Day.

The letters were sent to:

* President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, calling for the release of journalist Roxana Saberi and for a full and transparent investigation into the deaths of blogger Omidreza Mirsayafi and photojournalist Zahra Kazemi. Iranian-American journalist Saberi has been sentenced to eight years in prison on trumped-up charges of spying for the American government and is currently on a hunger strike. Mr Mirsayafi, a blogger who was serving a two-and-a-half year sentence for insulting religious leaders, died in March under mysterious circumstances. Ms Kazemi, an Iranian-Canadian photographer who was detained in 2003 after taking photos outside of Tehran's notorious Evin prison, died from a brain haemorrhage after being arrested and beaten inside the prison. (The letter can be found at ).

* President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan, calling for the release of journalist Sayed Parwez Kambakhsh and all others held in Afghanistan prisons for exercising their right to freedom of expression. Mr Kambakhsh, who has been detained since October 2007, was originally sentenced to death for blasphemy after he downloaded a report that said that Muslim fundamentalists misrepresented the views of the prophet Mohamed when they claimed that the Koran justified the oppression of women. The sentence was reduced to 20 years in prison on appeal.

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* President Raul Castro of Cuba, calling for the release of all journalists held in jail in Cuba. At least 22 journalists are known to be in Cuban jails, including 20 who were arrested in March 2003 during the Black Spring crackdown on reporters and others perceived to be critics of the government. ( ).

* President Issayas Afewerki of Eritrea, calling for the release of Swedish-Eritrean journalist Dawit Isaak and 13 other journalists who were imprisoned in a 2001 government crackdown that saw the closure of all independent media in the country. Some of the journalists have never been charged, even after eight years in prison. ( ).

* President Felipe Calderon of Mexico, calling for an end to impunity for those who murder journalists, and to ask that the right of freedom of expression be protected in Mexico. Twenty-nine journalists have been killed in Mexico since 2000, eight a further eight are missing, and many more have been attacked and threatened. Few have been brought to justice for these crimes. ( ).

About WAN

WAN says: “The Paris-based WAN, the global organisation for the newspaper industry, defends and promotes press freedom and the professional and business interests of newspapers world-wide. Representing 18,000 newspapers, its membership includes 77 national newspaper associations, newspaper companies and individual newspaper executives in 122 countries, 12 news agencies and 11 regional and world-wide press groups.”