CJFE writes alerts to express concern for issues of press freedom violations and to urge a specific course of action to advance the the protection of the right to freedom of expression and access to information. These alerts can also be written to commend progress made on specific issues, and to encourage a continuation of these policies and actions.
Are alerts effective? Yes, they do make a difference. Mass public pressure can lead to positive change as governments come under sustained international scrutiny, particularly for countries where your own government has a strong influence.
In addition, alerts provide indirect moral support to those you are advocating for, who depend on various means of advocacy to effect change in their own circumstances. Journalists who have been arrested, jailed or harassed have written to thank us for our help and support.
How to write a letter of concern
• Do some research to understand the case you are writing about and its current status.
• Write a hand-written letter if possible as they are novel and feel more personal.
• Address your letter to the foreign official of the relevant embassy or high commission to your country. You can find more information about titles and salutations here.
• Use a respectful tone throughout the letter and refrain from harsh criticism and abusive language. Consider how the official will react when reading the letter. You want to engage him/her and get him/her to take your letter seriously.
• Briefly introduce yourself or your organization in the first paragraph, before writing about the purpose of your letter.
• Describe the situation and the significance of the situation before stating and explaining your specific request (e.g. We urge…, We call for…).
• End with a polite note thanking the official for his/her attention.
• Sign off with your real name, and include your contact information. Some ambassadors will reply to letters they receive.
• Review the letter for language and content errors, ensuring all your facts are correct.
• Fax or mail the letter off, and CC your ambassador in the relevant country as well as the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Let us know if you send a letter. We would love to hear what cases have caught your attention and encourage your work. CJFE’s alerts are also available online for your reference. Please contact us at cjfe [at] cjfe.org for any further enquiries.
Watch Omar Ahmad's TED talk on "Political Change with pen and paper" below. Ahmad is a member of the City Council for San Carlos, California, in the United States and a renewable energy entrepreneur.