Bring Them Here

We believe that to continue to detain these three individuals without charge or trial undermines freedom of expression and the right to seek asylum. We urge you to allow them to be resettled in Australia so that they can live, work and contribute to Australian society.

MEAA is calling for the Turnbull Government to resettle in Australia Behrouz Boochani, Mehdi Savari, and ‘Eaten Fish’, respectively a journalist, an actor and a cartoonist who have been detained for several years at the Manus Island Regional Processing Centre, operated on behalf of the Australian government.

We regard these three men, who each fled Iran separately and have sought asylum in Australia, as professional colleagues who can make a meaningful contribution if resettled in Australia.

Boochani, Savari and Eaten Fish are among 900 other refugees, migrants and asylum-seekers detained on Manus Island as victims of the Australian Government’s cruel policy of deterrence and indefinite offshore detention for those who seek refuge in Australia by sea.

They each sought refuge from Iran so they could freely express themselves without fear of persecution or harm, but instead their freedom has been further suppressed in detention.

On February 3, more than 100 journalists, actors, writers and cartoonists joined MEAA in writing to the Prime Minister and Immigration Minister requesting that Boochani, Savari and Eaten Fish be resettled in Australia as soon as possible. See below for the full letter and join the campaign by adding your name.

The following open letter is addressed to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Immigration Minister Peter Dutton:

WE, the undersigned, write as journalists, writers, cartoonists and performers to urge you to allow our colleagues Behrouz Boochani, Mehdi Savari, and ‘Eaten Fish’ to be resettled in Australia.

All three men have sought protection as refugees from Iran and are currently detained at the Manus Island Regional Processing Centre in Papua New Guinea which is operated on behalf of the Australian Government.

Well into the fourth year of their ordeal on Manus Island, and with delays and uncertainties in relation to any US resettlement deal, the three men remain in limbo. To varying degrees, the years of detention have severely impacted their mental and physical health.

•  Behrouz Boochani, 33, is a Kurdish journalist. He has worked as a journalist and editor for several Iranian newspapers. On February 17, 2013, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps ransacked his offices in Ilam and arrested 11 of Boochani’s colleagues. Six were imprisoned. He has courageously continued to work as a journalist while in detention, and is a regular contributor to publications in Australia and overseas, often reporting on the situation and conditions on Manus Island. He has been recognised as a refugee and we urge you to allow him to reside in Australia to resume his career as a journalist. Boochani is a Main Case of PEN International, and has been recognised as a detained journalist by Reporters Without Borders. (RSF)
•  Mehdi Savari, 31, is an Ahwazi Arab performer. As an actor, he has worked with numerous theatre troupes in many cities and villages in Iran, and performed for audiences in open public places. He was also well-known as the host of a satirical children’s TV show before fleeing Iran. Mehdi is a person of short stature and has met with severe discrimination over his life. His dwarfism has been exacerbated by the conditions and his treatment on Manus Island over the last three years, and he continues to suffer a range of physical ailments and indignities, as well as regular bouts of depression and chronic pain. As he has also been recognised as a refugee, we urge you to facilitate his resettlement in Australia. We also refer you to a resolution passed by the International Federation of Actors congress in Sao Paulo, Brazil, in September calling for his release from detention.
•  Eaten Fish, 24, is a cartoonist and artist who prefers to be known by his nom-de-plume. He has recently received Cartoonists’ Rights Network International’s 2016 award for Courage in Editorial Cartooning. His application for refugee status has not been assessed. Since he was detained at Manus Island, he has been diagnosed with mental illnesses which have been compounded by his incarceration. We urge you to allow him to live in Australia until the final status of his claim can be determined.

As journalists, cartoonists, writers and performers, we are aware that the rights we enjoy are matched by a responsibility to challenge and confront tyranny and wrongdoing, to bear witness and uphold truth, and to reflect our society, even if sometimes unfavourably. We are privileged that in Australia we are able to pursue these ends without fear of persecution or threat to our personal liberty.

We believe that to continue to detain these three individuals without charge or trial undermines freedom of expression and the right to seek asylum. All three have courageously continued to practice their vocations on Manus Island despite their incarceration. We urge you to allow them to be resettled in Australia so that they can live, work and contribute to Australian society.

MEAA is joined in this letter by the the International Federation of Journalists, the International Federation of Actors, Reporters Without Borders, the Cartoonists’ Rights Network International, PEN International and members of the global network of the International Freedom of Expression Exchange.

We urge you to give the cases for resettlement of these three men serious consideration.


Paul Murphy, CEO, Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance

Alan Fletcher, actor

Abbe Holmes, performer

Adele Ferguson, investigative reporter, The Age

Adil Soz – International Foundation for Protection of Freedom of Speech

Afghanistan Journalists Center

Alex Miller, writer

Alex Skovron, writer

Alexandra Wake, Journalism Educator, RMIT.

Alexis Wright, writer

Amanda Bishop, actor

Amanda Meade, media correspondent, Guardian Australia

Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain

Andrea Goldsmith, author

Andrew Dyson, cartoonist, The Age

Andrew Weldon, cartoonist

Angela Savage, author

Anita Heiss, author and poet

Anna Funder, writer

Anna Goldsworthy, writer and pianist

Arnold Zable, author

Bali Padda, actor

Ben Schneiders, investigative reporter, The Age

Bill Garner, writer and actor

Bunty Avieson, journalist and author

Cambodian Center for Human Rights

Canadian Journalists for Free Expression

Caroline Graham, writer

Cartoonists Rights Network International

Cathy Peters, radio producer

Cathy Wilcox, cartoonist, Sydney Morning Herald

Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility Freedom Forum

Charlotte Wood, writer

Chloe Dallimore, actor/President, MEAA Equity

Chris Graham, publisher and editor, New Matilda

Chris Nash, Professor Journalism, Monash University

Chris Wormersley, author

Chrissie Page, actor

Christine McKenzie, writer

Christopher Downes, cartoonist

Christos Tsiolkas, writer and broadcaster

David Pope, cartoonist

David Squires, cartoonist

Debra Adelaide, writer

Delia Falconer, author

Dennis Atkins, national affairs editor, The Courier Mail

Di Martin, journalist and writer.

Don Bridges, actor

Dr Fiona Martin, On Line media academic, University of Sydney

Dr Olivier Jutel University of the South Pacific

Dragan Zivancevic, writer and director

Drusilla Modjeska, author

Elena Carapetis, actor

Elliot Perlman, author and barrister

Emily Bitto, writer

Erik Jensen, editor, The Saturday Paper

Evelyn Juers, writer

Fiona Katauskas, cartoonist

Fiona Press, actor

Fiona Wright, Author

First Dog On The Moon, cartoonist

Francis Greenslade, actor

Frank Moorhouse, writer

Gabrielle Jackson, opinion editor, Guardian Australia

Gail Jones, author

Geoff Morrell, actor

Geoff Parish, journalist

Geordie Williamson, writer and critic

Gina McColl, investigations deputy editor, The Age

Glen Le Lievre, cartoonist

Glenn Hazeldine, actor

Globe International Center

Greg Baum, associate editor, The Age

Helen Dallimore, actor

Helen Garner, writer

Human Rights Network for Journalists – Uganda

Independent Journalism Center – Moldova

Index on Censorship

International Federation of Actors

International Federation of Journalists

International Publishers Association Media Foundation for West Africa

Ivor Indyk, publisher

Jackie Mansourian, writer

Janet Galbraith, poet and co-ordinator of Writing Through Fences

Jason Klarwein, actor

Jeff Sparrow, writer and broadcaster

Jewel Topsfield, Indonesia correspondent, Fairfax Media

Johan Lidberg, journalist and academic

John Pilger, journalist

John Shakespeare, cartoonist & illustrator, Sydney Morning Herald

Jon Kudelka, cartoonist

Jonathan Mill, performer

Joshua Robertson, Brisbane correspondent, Guardian Australia

Judith Buckrich, writer

Judith Rodriguez, poet

Judy Horacek, cartoonist

June Factor, writer

Karen Middleton, chief political correspondent, The Saturday Paper

Karen Percy, senior reporter, ABC

Kate McClymont, investigative journalist, Sydney Morning Herald

Kerith Atkinson, actor

Kerry Walker, actor

Kevin Brophy, poet and author

Kim Scott, author

Lachlan Woods, actor

Liam McIlwain, actor

Lindsay Murdoch, South-East Asia correspondent, Fairfax Media

Lorna Lesley, actor

Maher Mughrabi, foreign editor, The Age

Marcus Strom, science editor, Sydney Morning Herald

Margot Knight, actor

Maria Tumarkin, writer

Marieke Hardy, writer and broadcaster

Mark Isaacs, writer

Mary-Anne Toy, features editor, The Age

Matt O’Sullivan, transport editor, Sydney Morning Herald

Media Institute of Southern Africa

Media Watch Norwegian

Melissa Davey, Melbourne bureau chief, Guardian Australia

Melissa Lucashenko, writer

Michael Bachelard, investigations editor, The Age

Michael Heyward, publisher

Michael Janda, business reporter, ABC

Michael Slezak, environment reporter, Guardian Australia

Michala Banas, actor

Michelle de Kretser, author

Michelle Griffin, acting deputy editor, The Age

Mike Seccombe, national correspondent, The Saturday Paper

Mike Ticher, news editor, Guardian Australia

Miki Perkins, social affairs reporter, The Age

Miranda Tapsell, actor

Mireille Juchau, author

Miska Mandic, film-maker

Monica Main, actor

National Union of Somali Journalists

Neil Chenoweth, senior reporter, Australian Financial Review

Nick Feik, editor, The Monthly

Nick Miller, Europe correspondent, Fairfax Media

Nick Moir, photographer, Sydney Morning Herald

Nick O’Malley, senior writer, Sydney Morning Herald

Norwegian PEN

Oslo Davis, cartoonist

Pacific Freedom Forum

Paddy O’Reilly, writer

Patrick Frost, actor

Paul Farrell, reporter, Guardian Australia

Paul Syvret, assistant editor, The Courier Mail

Pearl Tan, actor

PEN American Center

PEN Melbourne

PEN Sydney

Penny Hueston, editor

Peter Greste, journalist

Peter Hannam, environment editor, Sydney Morning Herald

Peter Ryan, senior business correspondent, ABC

Professor David Robie, Pacific Media Centre

Raimond Gaita, writer and philosopher

Randa Abdel-Fattah, writer

Reg Lynch, cartoonist

Robert Hillman, author

Robert Manne, writer and academic

Robyn Arthur, actor

Rod Emmerson, cartoonist

Rod Mullinar, actor

Rod Quantock, writer and comedian

Roger Patching, journalism educator

Rohan Connolly, senior football writer, The Age

Rory Walker, actor

Royce Millar, investigative reporter, The Age

Sam Gaskin, performer

Sam Wallman, cartoonist

Samah Sabawi, Author and playwright.

Sarah Danckert, business reporter, The Age

Sharon Davis, freelance journalist

Simon Johanson, business journalist, The Age

Simon Letch, illustrator, Sydney Morning Herald

Steph Harmon, culture editor, Guardian Australia

Stephanie Convery, deputy culture editor, Guardian Australia

Stephanie Wood, senior writer, Sydney Morning Herald

Stephen Long, investigative reporter, ABC

Stephen Stockwell, Professor, Griffith University

Stuart Halusz, actor

Tessa Lunney, writer

Thomas Keneally, author

Toni Jordan, writer

Tony Birch, author and poet

Tony Kevin, writer and ex-diplomat

Tracey Spicer, writer and broadcaster

Vigilance pour la Démocratie et l’État Civique

Wendy Bacon, freelance journalist and academic

World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers

Zev Landes, cartoonist

behrouz2Behrouz Boochani is a journalist who was born in Ilam city in west Iran in 1983. He graduated from Tarbiat Madares University in Tehran with a masters’ degree in political geography and geopolitics.

He has worked as a freelance journalist and for several Iranian newspapers – Kasbokar Weekly, Qanoon, Etemaad – and the Iranian Sports Agency. He published articles on Middle East politics and interviews with the Kurdish elite in Tehran, and with several colleagues, he founded, edited, published and wrote for the Kurdish magazine Werya, documenting Kurdish aspirations for cultural freedom.

On February 17, 2013, officials from the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps ransacked the Werya offices in Ilam and arrested 11 of Boochani’s colleagues. Six were imprisoned. Boochani was in Tehran that day and avoided arrest.

On hearing of the arrests he published the information on the website Iranian Reporters, and the report was widely circulated. Boochani feared for his safety and went into hiding. Boochani fled Iran on May 23, 2013. In July of that year he was among 75 asylum seekers intercepted by the Australian Navy en route to Australia.

After initially being detained on Christmas Island, he was later transferred to the Manus Island Regional Processing Centre in August 2013, where has remained since.

He has continued working as a journalist from Manus Island, filing articles and videos for Guardian Australia, The Saturday Paper, New Matilda, The New York Times and other Australian and international publications, while also assisting Australian-based journalists reporting about the situation there. He contributes to a range of Kurdish-language publications, and is collaborating on books and films about life inside the detention centre.

Boochani’s case has been adopted as a ‘Main Case’ by the London-based freedom of expression organisation PEN International, and he has been shortlisted in the journalism category for the 2017 Index on Censorship’s Freedom of Expression Awards.

Read more:

eaten-fish2Eaten Fish is the pen name of a 24-year-old Iranian cartoonist. He also has been held at Manus Island for three years after travelling by boat to attempt to seek asylum in Australia.

He has been diagnosed with complex PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), severe OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), Dissociation with panic attacks and somatization. In early 2016, he alleges he was sexually assaulted in the detention camp and is now subject to ongoing sexual harassment and threatening sexual propositions. He also alleges he has been assaulted by guards and police.

Although he is under 24 hour guard in the ‘Green Zone’ —isolation area of Manus Island RPC — this has not halted the ongoing threats of sexual violence.

At this stage, Eaten Fish’s claims for refugee protection have not been assessed due to his fragile mental state. Advocates have urged for him to be flown to Australia for specialist treatment.

His cartoons have been described as  “meticulously inked on pages torn from a notepad, [they] document the myriad ways in which the inmates of Manus Island are rendered targets, driven to the edges of endurance in hellish surroundings. In their minute renderings of a teeming, nightmare world, charged with sexual menace, the drawings evoke the infernal paintings of Hieronymus Bosh.”

His case has been taken up by many of Australia’s leading cartoonists, and in September 2016, Eaten Fish was announced to have won the  2016 Award for Courage in Editorial Cartooning from Cartoonists Rights Network International.

In the award announcement, CRNI’s Joel Pett said:

The importance of the work of human rights defenders, artists, cartoonists and writers, such as Eaten Fish, within the prison camp cannot be overstated. Nor can the fact that they are at further risk of violence each time they create, speak, draw or write. Eaten Fish is one of those who’s work as a cartoonist brings to light the horrors that are happening around him . . .  We hope that this award will help shine a brighter light on the excesses of this camp. His work is addressed to the critical eyes of the world while exposing the xenophobic and racist policies of the Australian government in their dealings with immigrant refugees.”

Read more:

mehdi3_editedMehdi Savari, 31, is an Ahwazi Arab performer. He is approximately one-metre tall and weighs about 30 kilograms.

As an actor, he worked with numerous theatre troupes in many cities and villages in Iran, and for a time he was the host of a popular children’s television show in Iran’s Khuzestan Province.

Ahwazi Arabs are the largest Arab ethnic group in Iran, predominantly residing in the nation’s oil-rich south, and have been recognised by Amnesty International as facing discrimination by authorities concerning politics, employment and cultural rights.

On the July 23, 2013, Mehdi undertook a difficult journey by boat to Christmas Island, four days after the introduction of the new Australian government policy, whereby asylum seekers were to be transferred to Manus Island within a month.

On Manus Island, he met with severe discrimination and indignities over the last three years because of his height.

Despite his incarceration, Savari has continued to pursue his career as a performer on Manus Island, overseeing small-scale satirical productions to lift the spirits of the other detainees.

He has been recognised as a refugee and has asked to be resettled in Australia.

In September this year, the 21st global congress of the International Federation of Actors, held in Sao Paulo, Brazil, passed the following resolution:

“To support the call by the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance (MEAA) for the Australian government to release from detention the Iranian actor Mehdi Savari who has been recognised as a genuine refugee and continues to be held on Manus Island.”

Read more:


Mehdi Savari and Behrouz Boochani on Manus Island.

MEAA has been a long-term campaigner against the strict media blackouts, secrecy and harsh anti-whistleblower legislation that governs not only the detention centres on Manus Island and Nauru, but asylum seeker policy in general.

We find these deliberate attempts to suppress reporting about the treatment of asylum seekers and the conditions of the centres to be an affront to press freedom.

As the 2016 press freedom report published by MEAA said:

“We have already had years of refusal by the current government to be open about its activities relating to asylum seekers. Requests for information are met with a blanket refusal to discuss ’on-water matters’. Similarly, questions about what happens in asylum seeker detention centres have been met with silence, obfuscation, and even buck-passing questions to foreign governments. Last year this approach was reinforced by brutal legislation: the Border Force Act now carries a two year jail term if “entrusted personnel” disclose “protected” information.”

But as Guardian Australia reporter Ben Doherty wrote in the same report:

“For years, Australian journalists have noisily and proudly resisted political efforts to restrict them in their work. But they must continue to oppose the suppression of free reportage, on issues of asylum and all others.”

Read the 2016 press freedom report for more.