New York City, April 6, 2010—A coalition of free expression organizations delivered a petition to the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations calling on the Iranian government to release dozens of journalists, writers, and bloggers currently imprisoned in that country. Hundreds of PEN members including Orhan Pamuk, Margaret Atwood, E.L. Doctorow, Nadine Gordimer, and Mario Vargas Llosa were among the more than 3,500 writers, journalists, and press freedom supporters from around the world to sign the petition, which reads:

At least 60 writers, journalists, and bloggers are behind bars today in violation of the protections guaranteeing freedom of expression in the Islamic Republic of Iran’s constitution and in international law. This list constitutes the largest number of such professionals jailed by any country at one time in over a decade.

In 1978, your predecessor, Ayatollah Khomeini, said, “Our future society will be a free society, and all the elements of oppression, cruelty, and force will be destroyed.”

We entreat you to uphold the pledges of Ayatollah Khomeini and the promises of the Iranian constitution by releasing all writers, journalists, and bloggers currently behind bars for covering the news and expressing their views in Iran.

The petition effort was organized by PEN American Center, the Committee to Protect Journalists, and 14 other international free expression groups: Index on Censorship; Reporters Without Borders; International PEN; Canadian Journalists for Free Expression; International Publishers Association; Article 19; World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers; International Federation of Journalists; National Press Club; World Press Freedom Committee; Observatory for the Freedom of Press, Publishing and Creation; Institute of Mass Information; International Women’s Media Foundation; and Freedom House. Petitioners’ names were collected through Facebook and the “Our Society Will Be a Free Society” campaign, the coalition’s initiative to win the freedom of all journalists jailed in Iran. Additional names of prominent petitioners can be viewed on the campaign web site.

“Today an impressive list of PEN members and our free expression partners from around the world sent a clear message to the Iranian government to stop its continuing human rights abuses and to our Iranian colleagues that they are not forgotten,” said Larry Siems, Director of PEN American Center’s Freedom to Write and International Programs. “We call on Iran to release all writers and journalists currently in detention in accordance with its own laws and international free expression guarantees.”

Those interested in joining the petition may still do so by visiting the “Our Society Will Be a Free Society” campaign at

PEN American Center is the largest of the 145 centers of International PEN, the world’s oldest human rights organization and the oldest international literary organization. The Freedom to Write Program of PEN American Center works to protect the freedom of the written word wherever it is imperiled. It defends writers and journalists from all over the world who are imprisoned, threatened, persecuted, or attacked in the course of carrying out their profession.

Larry Siems, PEN American Center, (212) 334-1660 ext. 105