News reports circulated yesterday from Iran that blogger Omid Reza Misayafi had died in prison. Misayafi, who blogged primarily about music and culture, was jailed by authorities after posting a number of entries criticizing the Iranian government. As a fellow blogger, it is impossible not to echo the thoughts of the Committee to Protect Bloggers: “They Killed One of Us.”
According to Hamid Tehrani, an Iranian blogger and activist who writes (as I do) for Global Voices Online, Misafayi was 29-years old. Sentenced to two and half years for “insulting religious leaders, and engaging in propaganda against the Islamic Republic of Iran… [he] was still awaiting an additional trial for insulting Islam.”
The Committee to Protect Bloggers lists an unconfirmed timeline of events leading to Misayafi’s death. Apparently a fellow inmate alerted the authorities on Wednesday that Misayafi was a suicide risk. The timeline reports that Misayafi, who had allegedly swallowed an excess number of prescrition sedatives, was seen by a doctor and deemed to have a critically slow heartbeat. Prison authorities said that he was “faking” and Misayafi’s death shortly thereafter was declared a suicide.
Upon hearing of his passing, Misayafi’s sister, Masoumeh Mirsayafi* called it “very suspicious.” She told Radio Free Europe:
“I even asked him a few days ago how often he took the tablets. He told me: ‘every morning and evening, when it is time to take the tablets, we ask the prison clinic and they give us our tablets.’ I find it hard to believe how he had [so many] tablets as to commit suicide by overdose.”
—— Keep reading to learn more about freedom of speech on the internet and what you can do to help —–
In a press release reporting his death, Reporters Without Borders shared an excerpt from a recent interview with Misayafi:
“I am worried. The problem is not my sentence of two years in prison. But I am a sensitive person. I will not have the energy to live in prison. I want everything to be like it was before. I want to resume my normal life and continue my studies.”
Whether or not Misayafi was killed in prison or died as a result of his imprisonment is of little import. What counts is that Misayafi would still be alive today if he were a free man. Misayafi died trying to speak freely against a cruel and corrupt system– something that we bloggers can relate to.
How does Iran regard the internet in general? Radio Free Europe reports:
“Access is blocked to many online news sources, opposition webpages, and even music websites. And suggestions have been made that the country’s notoriously slow Internet speeds are kept that way by design, as it hampers the uploading of photos, audio, and video to websites and blogs. Despite such obstacles, however, blogging is booming in Iran. In fact, according to [Reporters Without Borders], Farsi/Tajik has become the fifth most popular language in the blogosphere.”
In closing, we would do well to respect the words written in Article 19 in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (and the motto of the Committee to Protect Bloggers):
“Everyone has a right to freedom of opinion and expression; the right includes freedom to hold opinions without interferences and to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
Honoring Omid Reza Misayafi’s Words
I am currently looking for excerpts from Misayafi’s blog that have been translated into English. If I can find them, I will publish them here to honor his memory.
Take Action to Support Bloggers’ Freedom of Speech
To support Misayafi and other bloggers in their quest to think, speak, and write freely, join the Facebook causes “Committee to Protect Bloggers” and “Hold Iran Responsible for Death of Blogger Mirsayafi in Prison” and consider subscribing to Global Voices Advocacy: Defending Free Speech Online.
* Misayafi’s sister, Masoumeh Mirsayafi– name transliterated from Farsi: two spellings exist in news stories.
Learn More About Freedom of Speech and the Internet In Our Region:
- “Israeli Facebook Network Goes Viral: Cultural Reporting from the Front Lines”
- “Facebook in Turkey: What Makes Turkey #1?” – One of my top posts
- “Dead Link: Syrian Minister of Communications Fired for Excessive Banning of Internet Sites”
- “Syria Says No to Facebook: Bloggers Talk Back”
- “Arab Literacy: Knowledge Transfer and Translation in the Arab World”
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