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Canada10 June 2005

Open letter to Montreal authorities about censorship of Zahra Kazemi photo exhibit

For the attention of Mr. David Johnstone Borough Manager, Côte-Saint-Luc - Hampstead - Montreal West

Dear Mr. Johnstone,

Reporters Without Borders, an international organisation that defends press freedom, condemns the cancellation on 6 June of a posthumous exhibition of photographs by Zahra Kazemi in the Côte-Saint-Luc municipal library. The decision to withdraw this exhibition, entitled "Against Forgetfulness," was an act of censorship and an insult to the memory of Ms. Kazemi, a Canadian photojournalist who was murdered in a Tehran prison in July 2003.

The exhibition consisted of 23 photos and focussed mainly on Afghanistan and Iran. But a resident in your borough reportedly complained about the inclusion of five photos taken in the Palestinian territories during the Intifada.

We fail to understand why this complaint, based on political and religious reasons, resulted in the withdrawal of these five photographs on the grounds, you said, that "a public institution is free to set its own policies."

Ms. Kazemi’s son, Stephan Hachemi, was rightly outraged by this decision and told you to either restore the withdrawn photos or cancel the exhibition altogether. Unfortunately, you chose the second option.

Mr. Johnstone, why do you think reporting the news and current affairs means taking sides? You are making an error of judgement here and you still have time to rectify it.

We trust you will give this matter your careful consideration.

Reporters Without Borders

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