Film organisations around the world are protesting the arrest of Iranian director Jafar Panahi

With representatives in 29 countries, the Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema (NETPAC) today said, “NETPAC protests the fact that Iran’s artists and intellectuals are being increasingly intimidated, hassled and in some cases, physically jailed. We urge the leaders of Iran to respect the fundamental human rights and artistic expression of its artists. We stand behind filmmaker Jafar Panahi, and join hands with the other world-wide organizations in demanding his immediate release.”

The European Film Academy has also called for his release, with the board encouraging members to join the protest by personal letters to Iranian embassies in their respective countries.

Meanwhile, the Association of Filmmakers of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Sarajevo Film Festival have also strongly condemned the arrest, saying, “We would like to use this opportunity to express the concern regarding the Panahi’s arrest, and to condemn any act of denial of artistic and civil freedom, and violation of basic human rights.”

British director Ken Loach, Berlinale’s festival director Dieter Kosslick, the Federation of European Film Directors, the Asia Pacific Screen Awards, the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, and the International Film Festival Rotterdam are amongst those who have voiced their protests.

The director was arrested in his home on March 1 and detained by Iranian security forces. He was a vocal supporter of opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi in last year’s disputed presidential election in Iran, and last month the Berlinale’s organizers said that a travel ban had prevented the director from attending the event.

After starting as an assistant director to Abbas Kiarostami on Through The Olive Trees, Jafar Panahi won the Camera D’Or at the 1995 Cannes Film Festival with his feature debut The White Balloon. Notably, he won the Golden Lion at the 2000 Venice Film Festival with The Circle, a critical look at the treatment of women in Iranian society where they are restricted by laws and social taboos.

Most recently, he won the Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival with Offside, a realist comedy shot at a football match where girls and women, banned from such games, disguise themselves to see the match – and get arrested and detained.