The March 18 Movement was the brain child of Hamid Tehrani. He, Esra’a Al Shafei and Curt Hopkins had worked together on free speech issues before. They united to make March 18 the definitive day for commemorating the risks taken by bloggers around the world to bring tell their stories. They bring divergent points of view to bear on the issue of free speech in blogging.

Those supporting free speech for bloggers around the world come from a host of different backgrounds, often focus on different elements of the issue and do so in different ways. However, we are all united by a set of core beliefs. Those core beliefs are what power the March 18 Movement, and March18.org is the platform we are using to unite members of the movement and to communicate those principals to the public, politicians and press.

First among the principals of the March 18 Movement is a belief in the inviolacy of life. Bloggers should not be killed, neither by execution nor neglect, for what they have written. Secondly, we believe in free speech as a human right, not a function of culture or politics, and believe it to be a necessity for building and maintaining functional societies. We believe bloggers and non-specialist practitioners of other social media should be accorded the respect and support that activists, opposition politicians and journalists get from both their own countries and from the world at large.

We have chosen to call this movement the March 18 Movement in order to honor Omid Reza Mirsayafi, who on that date in 2009 became the first blogger to die in prison. Each March 18 from now on shall stand as a day of memorial to Omid and to all the innocents he represents.

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Hamid Tehrani is an Iranian researcher, blogger and journalist. He collaborates with different civil society and digital media projects such as DigiActive. Hamid is the Persian editor of Global Voices. He has been a speaker in different international conferences on citizen media and its impact on civil society. He has published in various Persian, English, French, and Italian magazines. Hamid Tehrani has been interviewed several times by international media such as BBC.

Esra’a Al Shafei is the Bahraini director of MideastYouth.com, an independent interfaith network whose mission is to inspire and provide young people with the freedom and opportunity of expression. Her advocacy on the internet bridges seemingly impenetrable barriers of faith and geography to unite young people committed to fostering constructive discourse in the Middle East. She is also the director of a series of international campaigns for rights of ethnic and religious minorities, and for freedom of expression. Among those she runs is the influential global campaign to FreeKareem.org. She is a recent recipient of the Berkman Award from Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society for her “outstanding contributions to the internet and its impact on society.”

Uzma Atcha is a Pakistani blogger based in Dubai, UAE and a volunteer activist for Mideast Youth.