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    PEN asks for the release of Shamsolvaezin and Jalaipur and the reinstatement of Tous

    His Excellency
    Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi
    Head of the Judiciary

    Ministry of Justice
    Park-e Shahr
    Islamic Republic of Iran
    Fax: 011-98-21-646-5242

    September 18, 1998

    Your Excellency,

    Our letter to you today comes with a grave sense of urgency as we are disturbed by reports that that the daily newspaper Tous was banned on September 16, 1998, on charges that it published articles in conflict with Iran's national interests and security. We are further perturbed to learn of the arrest and detention of Mahmoud Shamsolvaezin, chief editor of the newspaper, and Hamid Reza Jalaipur, director of publishing of Tous.

    We understand that the closure of the publication comes on the heels of Ayatollah Khamenei's warning to Revolutionary Guard commanders, the day before, on the excesses of an increasingly uninhibited Iranian press.

    In his speech, Ayatollah Khamenei accused certain publications of attempts to steer people away from Islam and of weakening people's belief in the tenets of the Islamic Revolution.

    He explicitly announced that this was his final call to the cultural, security and judicial authorities to curb the limits of freedom of expression, before he himself would undertake this task regardless of international opinion.

    Of most concern to PEN, in this case, is the potential to use national security as a pretext for depriving Iranians of their inalienable right to free expression. Tous, which began publication in June as the successor to another paper, Jameah, which was closed down, was widely acclaimed by the youth and intellectuals, as well as the general population. Known for its endorsement of freedom of expression, it challenged accepted Conservative policies. It is particularly distressing to note that peaceful expression of opinions by writers and journalists may be seen as a threat to national security--we do not understand how Tous, Mr. Shamsolvaezin and Mr. Jalaipur may be accused of compromising it.

    As an international organization of writers dedicated to defending freedom of expression in the United States and abroad, we ask for the immediate and unconditional release of Mr. Shamsolvaezin and Mr. Jalaipur and the reinstatement of Tous. Anything short of this will serve to reinforce the notion that writers and journalists in Iran risk harassment and their personal safety as they engage in their profession. We urge your prompt attention to this matter. We look forward to your response.


    Anthony Appiah
    PEN Freedom-to-Write Committee

    Michael Roberts
    Executive Director,
    PEN American Center

    Diana Ayton-Shenker
    PEN Freedom-to-Write Program


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