Yesterday saw the opening of the 61st Berlin International Film Festival, known as the Berlinale. Iranian director Jafar Panahi is a member of the jury but has not been permitted to leave Iran. Minister of State Pieper issued the following response today (11 February):
“I am very sorry that, for the first time in the history of the Berlinale, a jury member has been prevented for political reasons from travelling to Berlin.
Jafar Panahi is a dedicated filmmaker whose artistic work has won praise around the world. His films have in recent years given many people an insight into Iranian society and have thus made a crucial contribution to intercultural dialogue. Jafar Panahi’s empty chair at the Berlinale serves as a potent reminder of the suppression of freedom of speech and artistic freedom.
I appeal to Iran to respect the fundamental human and civil rights to which it has committed itself and lift the jail sentence it has imposed on Jafar Panahi as well as his work and travel ban.”
Jafar Panahi was arrested in March 2010 while working on a film critical of the controversial 2009 presidential elections in Iran. For various crimes including “propaganda against the Iranian system”, he has been sentenced to six years in prison and banned for 20 years from exercising his profession. Iran has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Panahi has received many international awards. He was invited, as in previous years, to participate in the 61st Berlin International Film Festival in 2011.
Speaking today at the signing ceremony for a trilateral filmmaking agreement, Minister of State Pieper again addressed the Iranian Government’s conduct towards Jafar Panahi and pointed out the particular cultural responsibility held by the film industry worldwide.