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Index urges UN Secretary-General to demand member states respect human rights following Ruhollah Zam execution

Open letter to Mr António Guterres, United Nations Secretary–General

Thursday, 17th December 2020

Dear Mr Secretary-General,

In October you addressed the European Broadcast Union and stated:

“Press Freedom is a pillar of democracy. When journalists are targeted, all of society pays the price. Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights guarantees the right to freedom of opinion and expression to all.

I wish to assure you of my strong commitment to defend those rights and, at a time when journalists face growing harassment and attacks in so many parts of the world, to ensure that journalists have the safety and civic space to carry out your essential mission.”

It is this spirit that I write to you today. On Saturday 12 December, a member of the UN General Assembly and a signatory of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, the Islamic Republic of Iran, executed a journalist in cold blood, Ruhollah Zam. His apparent crime was “Corruption on Earth”, or rather being a leading dissident against the Government. As a journalist, as a human rights activist, as a global citizen Ruhollah Zam should have been protected by the state of his birth, not murdered by them.

The Committee to Protect Journalists has documented a further 14 cases of journalists being imprisoned this year in Iran. This is in addition to those who have been incarcerated for exercising their rights under Article 19 in previous years and remain imprisoned.  This is an outright attack on our collective right to free speech and free expression.

We call on the United Nations to live up to its promises and demand members operate within both the letter and the spirit of the UN Declaration on Human Rights.

Yours sincerely,

Ruth Smeeth

Chief Executive, Index on Censorship

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