Paris became the 32nd city to join ICORN, the International Cities of Refugee Network, yesterday when mayor Bernard Delanoë signed an agreement making the French capital a haven for writers facing persecution for their activities. “We hail this decision by the city of Paris and we look forward with enthusiasm to continuing to work with ICORN with the aim of making it possible to welcome defenders of free speech to France,” Reporters Without Borders said. Iranian journalist and cartoonist Mana Neyestani, will be the first person to benefit from the new arrangement. Our organisation has been supporting him for several years. The signing ceremony took place at the Paris city hall in the presence of ICORN executive director Helge Lunde and Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Jean-François Julliard. Peter Ripken, chairman of ICORN’s executive board, praised the city’s commitment to the defense of human rights. Also present at the ceremony were the writer Amin Maalouf, prominent cultural figure André Larquié, Jean-Yves Langlais, president and director of the Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris, Carole Medrinal, director of Paris-Bibliothèques and Darline Cothière, director of the Journalists Residence. Reporters Without Borders welcomes the completion of this agreement and the choice of the Iranian journalist and cartoonist as the first beneficiary. The person in question will shortly be welcomed to Paris for a period of one or two years and will be able to resume working. The exodus of journalists from the country after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s disputed reelection in June 2009 has been the largest since the 1979 revolution. Faced with the impossibility of continuing their work, about 100 media workers have gone into exile. After the election, Reporters Without Borders put a great deal of effort into supportng journalists being forced to flee Iran, where more than a hundred media personnel and netizens have been arrested and accused of spying or acting against the security of the state in the past 18 months. France’s foreign ministry and its ministry of immigration, national identity and co-development responded positively to requests from Reporters Without Borders for emergency visas. As a result about 30 Iranian journalists and netizens, supported by the organization, have arrived in France to seek asylum. Some have been able to find accommodation at La Maison des Journalistes, a facility supported by the City of Paris that can take in about 30 journalists a year.