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Australia: Free expression detained?

25 IFEX members have joined a coalition of writers, cartoonists and performers to call on the Australian government to respect the free expression and asylum rights of Manus Island detainees Behrouz Boochani, Mehdi Savari and Eaten Fish. A previous resettlement deal negotiated with the US has been cast into uncertainty due to the immigration stance of the Trump administration, leaving the three men in limbo.

Detained on Manus Island (from left): Behrouz Boochani, Eaten Fish and Mehdi Savari
Detained on Manus Island (from left): Behrouz Boochani, Eaten Fish and Mehdi Savari

Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance

Hon. Malcolm Turnbull MP
Prime Minister of Australia

Hon. Peter Dutton MP
Minister for Immigration and Border Protection

We, the undersigned, write as journalists, writers, cartoonists and performers to urge you to allow our colleagues Behrouz Boochani, Mehdi Savari, and Eaten Fish to be resettled in Australia.

All three men have sought protection as refugees from Iran and are currently detained at the Manus Island Regional Processing Centre in Papua New Guinea, which is operated on behalf of the Australian Government.

Well into the fourth year of their ordeal on Manus Island, and with delays and uncertainties in relation to any US resettlement deal, the three men remain in limbo. To varying degrees, the years of detention, has severely impacted their mental and physical health.

To continue to detain these three individuals without charge or trial undermines freedom of expression and the right to seek asylum.

• Behrouz Boochani, 33, is a Kurdish journalist. He has worked as a journalist and editor for several Iranian newspapers. On February 17, 2013, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps ransacked his offices in Ilam and arrested 11 of Boochani's colleagues. Six were imprisoned. He has courageously continued to work as a journalist while in detention, and is a regular contributor to publications in Australia and overseas, often reporting on the situation and conditions on Manus Island. He has been recognised as a refugee and we urge you to allow him to reside in Australia to resume his career as a journalist. Boochani is a Main Case of PEN International, and has been recognised as a detained journalist by Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

• Mehdi Savari, 31, is an Ahwazi performer. As an actor, he has worked with numerous theatre troupes in many cities and villages in Iran, and performed for audiences in open public places. He was also well-known as the host of a satirical children's TV show before fleeing Iran. Mehdi is a person of short stature, and has met with severe discrimination over his life, which has been exacerbated by the conditions and his treatment on Manus Island over the last three years, and he continues to suffer a range of physical ailments and indignities, as well as regular bouts of depression and chronic pain. As he has also been recognised as a refugee, we urge you to facilitate his resettlement in Australia. We also refer you to a resolution passed by the International Federation of Actors congress in Sao Paulo, Brazil, in September calling for his release from detention.

• Eaten Fish, 24, is a cartoonist and artist who prefers to be known by his nom-de-plume. He has recently received Cartoonists' Rights Network International's 2016 award for Courage in Editorial Cartooning. His application for refugee status has not been assessed. Since he was detained at Manus Island, he has been diagnosed with mental illnesses, which have been compounded by his incarceration. We urge you to allow him to live in Australia until the final status of his claim can be determined.

As journalists, cartoonists, writers and performers, we are aware that the rights we enjoy are matched by a responsibility to challenge and confront tyranny and wrongdoing, to bear witness and uphold truth, and to reflect our society, even if sometimes unfavourably. We are privileged that in Australia we are able to pursue these ends without fear of persecution or threat to our personal liberty.

We believe that to continue to detain these three individuals without charge or trial undermines freedom of expression and the right to seek asylum. All three have courageously continued to practice their vocations on Manus Island despite their incarceration. We urge you to allow them to be resettled in Australia so that they can live, work and contribute to Australian society.

MEAA is joined in this letter by free expression groups from around the world. We urge you to give the cases for resettlement of these three men serious consideration.


Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance
International Federation of Journalists
Adil Soz - International Foundation for Protection of Freedom of Speech
Afghanistan Journalists Center
Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain
Cambodian Center for Human Rights
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression
Cartoonists Rights Network International
Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility
Freedom Forum
Free Media Movement
Globe International Center
Human Rights Network for Journalists - Uganda
Independent Journalism Center - Moldova
Index on Censorship
International Publishers Association
Media Foundation for West Africa
Media Institute of Southern Africa
Media Watch
National Union of Somali Journalists
Norwegian PEN
Pacific Freedom Forum (PFF)
PEN American Center
Vigilance pour la Démocratie et l’État Civique
World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers

Abbe Holmes, performer
Adele Ferguson, investigative reporter, The Age
Alan Fletcher, actor
Alex Miller, writer
Alexis Wright, writer
Amanda Meade, media correspondent, Guardian Australia
Andrew Dyson, cartoonist, The Age
Andrew Weldon, cartoonist
Angela Savage, author
Anna Goldsworthy, writer and pianist
Arnold Zable, author
Bali Padda, actor
Ben Schneiders, investigative reporter, The Age
Bill Garner, writer and actor
Cathy Wilcox, cartoonist, SMH
Charlotte Wood, writer
Chloe Dallimore, actor/President, MEAA Equity
Chris Graham, publisher and editor, New Matilda
Chris Wormersley, author
Chrissie Page, actor
Christine McKenzie, writer
Christopher Downes, cartoonist
Christos Tsiolkas, writer and broadcaster
David Pope, cartoonist
David Squires, cartoonist
Debra Adelaide, writer
Delia Falconer, author
Don Bridges, actor
Dragan Zivancevic, writer and director
Drusilla Modjeska, author
Elena Carapetis, actor
Elliot Perlman, author and barrister
Emily Bitto, writer
Erik Jensen, editor, The Saturday Paper
Evelyn Juers, writer
Fiona Katauskas, cartoonist
Fiona Wright, Author
Fiona Press, actor
First Dog On The Moon, cartoonist
Francis Greenslade, actor
Gabrielle Jackson, opinion editor, Guardian Australia
Gail Jones, author
Geoff Morrell, actor
Geordie Williamson, writer and critic
Gina McColl, investigations deputy editor, The Age
Glen Le Lievre, cartoonist
Glenn Hazeldine, actor
Greg Baum, associate editor, The Age
Helen Garner, writer Frank Moorhouse, writer
International Federation of Actors
Jackie Mansourian, writer
Janet Galbraith, poet and co‐ordinator of Writing Through Fences
Jason Klarwein, actor
Jeff Sparrow, writer and broadcaster
Jewel Topsfield, Indonesia correspondent, Fairfax Media
John Shakespeare, cartoonist & illustrator, SMH
Jon Kudelka, cartoonist
Jonathan Mill, performer
Joshua Robertson, Brisbane correspondent, Guardian Australia
Judith Buckrich, writer
Judith Rodriguez, poet June Factor, writer
Judy Horacek, cartoonist
Karen Percy, senior reporter, ABC
Kate McClymont, investigative journalist, SMH
Kerry Walker, actor
Kevin Brophy, poet and author
Kim Scott, author
Lachlan Woods, actor
Liam McIlwain, actor
Lindsay Murdoch, South‐ East Asia correspondent, Fairfax Media
Lorna Lesley, actor
Maher Mughrabi, foreign editor, The Age
Margot Knight, actor
Maria Tumarkin, writer
Marieke Hardy, writer and broadcaster
Mark Isaacs, writer
Mary‐Anne Toy, features editor, The Age
Melissa Davey, Melbourne bureau chief, Guardian Australia
Melissa Lucashenko, writer
Michael Bachelard, investigations editor, The Age
Michael Heyward, publisher
Michael Janda, business reporter, ABC
Michael Slezak, environment reporter, Guardian Australia
Michelle de Kretser, author
Michelle Griffin, acting deputy editor, The Age
Miki Perkins, social affairs reporter, The Age
Miranda Tapsell, actor
Mireille Juchau, author
Monica Main, actor
Neil Chenoweth, senior reporter, AFR
Nick Miller, Europe correspondent, Fairfax Media
Nick O'Malley, senior writer, SMH
Oslo Davis, cartoonist
Patrick Frost, actor
Paddy O’Reilly, writer
Paul Farrell, reporter
Paul Murphy, Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance
Paul Syvret, assistant editor
Penny Hueston, editor
Pearl Tan, actor
Peter Ryan, senior business correspondent, ABC
Raimond Gaita, writer and philosopher
Randa Abdel‐Fattah, writer
Reg Lynch, cartoonist
Robert Hillman, author
Robert Manne, writer and academic
Rod Emmerson, cartoonist
Rod Mullinar, actor
Rod Quantock, writer and comedian
Rohan Connolly, senior football writer, The Age
Rory Walker, actor
Royce Millar, investigative reporter, The Age
Sam Gaskin, performer
Sam Wallman, cartoonist
Samah Sabawi, Author and playwright.
Sarah Danckert, business reporter, The Age
Simon Johanson, business journalist, The Age
Simon Letch, illustrator, SMH
Steph Harmon, culture editor, Guardian Australia
Stephanie Convery, deputy culture editor, Guardian Australia
Stephen Long, investigative reporter, ABC
Stuart Halusz, actor
Tessa Lunney, writer
Toni Jordan, writer
Tony Birch, author and poet
Tony Kevin, writer and ex‐ diplomat
Tracey Spicer, writer and broadcaster
Zev Landes, cartoonist

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