Jon Stewart Hosts Iran Censorship Event
Screening of “Forced Confessions” with Maziar Bahari
Highlighting the heightened censorship and the situation of journalists in Iran, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran hosted a screening of Iranian-Canadian director Maziar Bahari’s film Forced Confessions in a joint event with the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and the PEN American Center on May 8 in New York.
As part of the sold-out event, hundreds of New Yorkers participated in a question-and-answer session about censorship in Iran with Bahari, Executive Director of CPJ Joel Simon, and world-famous political satirist Jon Stewart of The Daily Show.
One woman thanked Jon Stewart for his support of human rights in Iran, and asked him why he had chosen to support this cause. Stewart responded with the story of how he came to know Maziar Bahari—when Bahari’s interrogators in Iran’s Evin Prison used footage from a spoof interview with The Daily Show as proof that Bahari was a spy for the CIA. “So, Jewish guilt?” Stewart summed it up, drawing laughter from the full auditorium.
The event opened with an introduction by Suzanne Nossel, executive director of PEN America, describing Bahari’s arrest, imprisonment, and torture at the hands of Iranian security forces. During Bahari’s imprisonment, he was forced to make false confessions, which were broadcast throughout Iran. After his release, he made Forced Confessions, which was screened for the first time in New York at the May 8 event. Exposing what Bahari calls “the Iranian regime’s attempt to legitimize its rule through force,” the documentary film follows six writers, journalists, and scholars who were similarly tortured and forced to issue false confessions.
Following the film screening, Sherif Mansour of CPJ updated the audience on the current situation of journalists in Iran and the pre-election crackdown that has escalated in recent months. He showed a short video, made by IranWire, documenting the 40 journalists currently imprisoned in Iran.
Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, then presented an overview of the situation of human rights in Iran, especially regarding journalists and the upcoming June presidential election. Jon Stewart then held a conversation with Maziar Bahari and Joel Simon about censorship in Iran, citizen journalism, the bureaucratic nature of repression, and the current climate of caution surrounding the upcoming presidential election, among other topics.
In addition to New York, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran has screened Forced Confessions in Washington DC, Brussels, and Berkeley, and will be showing it in more cities in the coming months.
UPDATE: See our slideshow of the event here.
UPDATE 2: See video of the full panel discussion plus Q&A here.