URL: http://www.march18.org, http://www.globalvoices.or
On March 18, blogger Omid Reza Mir Sayafi died in prison after being sentenced to two and a half years in prison. He had been charged with insulting religious leaders and spreading propaganda about the Islamic Republic of Iran.
There were reports of Mir Sayafi—who primarily wrote about Persian music and culture—being depressed, of him taking sedative pills or receiving an overdose, of being described by his also-jailed doctor as “not at all fit for confinement” and the prison hospital failing to provide adequate care. People spoke of how use of torture was an open secret in Iranian prisons, and how someone accused of libelous blogging could be kept near more violent criminals.
Mir Sayafi’s death under mysterious circumstances—and the whys and hows of a blogger being jailed in the first place—prompted outcry by members of the international community, followed by action. The March 18 movement started in part as a memorial to Mir Sayafi (with March 18 denoted as a day of remembrance), and in part to ensure that “the first blogger to die in prison be the last” as more bloggers around the world become victims of more than just government censorship.
Founded by Hamid Tehrani and Mideast Youth, an interfaith youth network, the March 18 movement seeks to expand the world’s understanding of bloggers as de facto journalists, and extend the protections normally accorded to journalists to all those who share information and stories of repression and corruption online–sometimes at risk of violence or other harm.
March18.org asks supporters to join them by following the movement on Twitter, Facebook and the movement’s blog. The blog and Twitter feed post on movement-relevant issues and news: Recent posts include news about a freed female reformist blogger and information on how to help bloggers currently being persecuted in Vietnam.
The motivations of the March 18 movement and similar initiatives are not unlike those of “Reporter Without Borders” – the long-established activist organization for journalists’ rights that has spoken out about continued persecution of bloggers in Iran. Mir Sayafi’s death, and the role bloggers and active Twitter users played in the civil unrest following Iran’s presidential elections this year, has drawn attention to the bloggers’ rights movement, represented by sites like Global Voices and the Committee to Protect Bloggers.
- WHO: Omid Reza Mir Sayafi and people around the world trying to ensure that what happened to him doesn’t happen to other bloggers.
- WHAT: Mir Sayafi was one of a number of bloggers that have been arrested in Iran; he was reportedly the first to die in prison. Movements and memorials have sprung up in his memory, and his story — and the greater story of persecuted bloggers in Iran, and the yet greater story of bloggers under oppressive regimes around the world — has also drawn attention to bloggers’ rights and safety campaigns worldwide.
- WHERE: Worldwide.