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RELEASE ON WORLD PRESS FREEDOM DAY ENCOURAGES PEOPLE TO ACT ON BEHALF OF IMPRISONED JOURNALISTS AND OTHERS

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, [email protected], 212-633-4150; Jim Walsh, [email protected], 212-202-0272

(New York, NY) — Amnesty International today releases “Toast To Freedom,” a new and exclusive commemorative song dedicated to human rights activism around the world and performed by 50 high-profile artists, including the late Levon Helm, Kris Kristofferson, Carly Simon, Angelique Kidjo, Ewan McGregor, Donald Fagen, Warren Haynes, Keb Mo, Eric Burdon, Taj Mahal, Florent Pagny, Marianne Faithfull, Jane Birkin, Jimmy Barnes, Rosanne Cash, Shawn Mullins, the Blind Boys of Alabama, among others.

Written by veteran guitarist/producers Carl Carlton (Robert Palmer, Eric Burdon, Keb Mo) and Larry Campbell (Levon Helm Band, Bob Dylan, Elvis Costello), “Toast To Freedom” is the brainchild of Carlton, and longtime music industry executive, activist, and entrepreneur Jochen Wilms in collaboration with Art for Amnesty founder Bill Shipsey.

“Toast To Freedom,” which celebrates Amnesty International’s 50th anniversary, is being released to coincide with World Press Freedom Day. It’s available for purchase via online retailers worldwide starting Tuesday, May 8 in the United States or at www.ToastToFreedom.org. Net proceeds will benefit Amnesty International.

To mark the occasion as the song is launched, Amnesty International is asking people to take action on behalf of Chinese journalist Shi Tao, Tibetan filmmaker Dhondup Wangchen, and others whose basic right to free expression is being violated. For more information and to take action, please visit: http://www.amnestyusa.org/pressfreedomday

Suzanne Nossel, executive director, Amnesty International USA, said: "Toast to Freedom is an inspired tribute to millions of dedicated human rights activists all over the world. The songwriters salute every individual ‘united in the dream for victory,’ reflecting the spirit of our movement – that each of us can contribute to a better world. We are deeply grateful to all of the musicians involved in creating this gorgeous song."

The basic tracks were recorded at the legendary Levon Helm Studios in Woodstock, N.Y, affectionately known as “the Barn.” Helm, a four-time Grammy winner, who died April 19, had staged intimate, multi-artist concert performances known as the “Midnight Ramble” at the studio. Producer/engineer Bob Clearmountain (The Who, Paul McCartney, Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen) produced the track, which was then sent out to artists, who added vocals.

“Toast To Freedom” was inspired by Carlton, a longtime supporter of Amnesty International, who suggested teaming up with Wilms on a commemorative project to mark the organization’s 50th anniversary.

Filmmaker Natalie Johns of Dig for Fire captured all stages of the international production on video. Johns is known for her works with such artists as Jay-Z, Peter Gabriel and The Rolling Stones. The project will be featured in a short “making-of” documentary as well as a companion music video.

In 1962, Amnesty International evolved from a one-year campaign to free political prisoners – the inspiration of a British lawyer outraged by the injustice he saw worldwide — into a global movement fighting for justice, freedom and human dignity.

“Our hope from the very start was to bring the message of freedom and human rights to a global audience,” said Shipsey.

Toast to Freedom Performed By:

Amy Helm Ewan McGregor Max Buskohl
Angelique Kidjo Florent Pagny Moses Mo
Arno Gentleman Nacho Campillo
Axelle Red Jane Birkin Pascal Kravetz
Bertha Blades Jerry “Wyzard” Seay Rosanne Cash
Blind Boys of Alabama Jimmy Barnes Shawn Mullins
Carl Carlton John Leventhal Sir Samuel
Carly Simon JP Nataf Sonny Landreth
Christine & The Queens Keb Mo Sussan Deyhim
Christophe Willem Kris Kristofferson Taj Mahal
David D’Or Larry Campbell Teresa Williams
Donald Fagen Levon Helm Vida Simon
Emmanuel Jal Mahalia Barnes Warren Haynes
Eric Burdon Marianne Faithfull Wayne P. Sheehy
Essie Jain Matthew Houck Zackary Alford

Executive Producers: Bill Shipsey and Jochen Wilms

Produced by Bob Clearmountain

Co-Produced and Written by Carl Carlton & Larry Campbell

Information about imprisoned journalist Shi Tao and filmmaker Dhondup Wangchen

In April 2004, Shi Tao used his Yahoo! email account to send a message to a U.S.-based pro-democracy website. Police arrested him in November 2004, charging him with "illegally providing state secrets to foreign entities." Shi Tao was sentenced in April 2005 to 10 years’ imprisonment and two years’ subsequent deprivation of his political rights.

Tibetan filmmaker Dhondup Wangchen in 2007 travelled throughout Tibet, filming interviews with Tibetans about the Olympic Games in Beijing. Soon afterwards, he was arrested and convicted of state subversion in a secret trail. His interviews were smuggled out of the country and made into a film, Leaving Fear Behind, which has been screened in more than 30 countries. Dhondup is still in prison and has reportedly been tortured and deprived of medical treatment.

About Amnesty International

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.

For more information, please visit: www.amnestyusa.org.

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