NewsSpecial WirePress freedoms watchdog blasts Iran censorship

Press freedoms watchdog blasts Iran censorship

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Iran Focus: London, Nov. 29 – A prominent international press freedoms watchdog released on Tuesday the names of dozens of journalists who were banned from practising their profession in Iran. Iran Focus

London, Nov. 29 – A prominent international press freedoms watchdog released on Tuesday the names of dozens of journalists who were banned from practising their profession in Iran.

Reporters Without Borders said in a statement that since ultra-conservative President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad came to power in June 2005 “with a team consisting above all of former revolutionary guard commanders and intelligence officers, the repression of journalists in Iran has become more subtle and less visible, but it continues to be as effective as ever and to maintain Iran’s position as a leading violator of free expression”.

“Using arbitrary arrest and incarceration to decimate its independent press, the Islamic Republic has been the Middle-East’s biggest prison for journalists and cyber-dissidents since 2000”, the group said.

“Nowadays fewer journalists are imprisoned in Iran but this does not mean the authorities have relaxed the pressure on the press. Journalists are now often released provisionally after several days or weeks in detention, but no date is set for their trial, still less for their acquittal or the withdrawal of charges. Sometimes they are given prison sentences without ever being ordered to report to prison.

“Prosecutions that are delayed and sentences that are not implemented are threats that hang over journalists and prevent them from writing freely”, it added.

The group said that Ahmadinejad’s government and Iran’s judicial authorities had turned the entire country into the “region’s biggest open prison”.

“Most independent journalists or journalists who do not work for the government media are targeted by the authorities. One way or another is found to prevent them from working. At the same time, prosecutions are initiated against them and they have to pay large sums in bail (up to 60,000 euros) to get a provisional release while awaiting for the case to come to trial.

“These journalists are unable to work any more after getting out of prison. On the one hand, they are afraid of writing another article that might displease the authorities. One the other, many editors and publishers get clear instructions not to hire them. In some cases, the arrests of journalists is accompanied by the closure of the media they work for.

“The pro-reform daily Rouzegar was recently banned by the Press Surveillance Commission after giving jobs to journalists from the daily Shargh, after Shargh was closed down by the authorities on 11 September. The culture minister and Tehran prosecutor Said Mortazavi had sent the editor a list of journalists to fire, including former detainee Ahmad Zidabadi.

“Iranian journalists who choose to work for independent media are singled out for constant harassment”, the statement said.

Saharkhiz, the editor of the monthly Aftab and the business newspaper Akhabr Eghtesadi, was sentenced on 14 June of this year to four years in prison and a five-year ban on working as a journalist for “offence to the constitution” and “publicity against the regime”.

Baghernia, the publisher of the business daily Asia, was sentenced by the Tehran Supreme Court on 19 August to six months in prison for “propaganda against the regime” in the 5 July 2003 issue of Asia, which included a photo of Maryam Rajavi of the opposition People’s Mujahideen. Her husband, Iraj Jamshidi, the newspaper’s editor, was arrested on 6 July 2003 for the same reason and was sentenced to a year in prison. Baghernia received her second summons to report to prison in early November, but has not been arrested.

Since the start of 2004, Reporters Without Borders has registered more than 30 cases of journalists fleeing Iran to escape prosecution.

RWB listed the following individuals as having been banned from practising their profession in Iran:

Mr. Abbas Abdi, Mr. Abbas Kakavand, Mr. Abbas Dalvand, Mr. Abolfazel Vesali , Mr. Abolghasem Golbaf, Ms. Azam Taleghani, Mr. Ahmad Zidabadi, Mr. Akbar Ganji , Mr. Ali-Hamed Iman, Mr. Ali-Reza Jabari, Mr. Ali-Reza Redjaï, Mr. Ali Reza Alavitabar, Mr. Amin Movahedi, Mr. Ali Mazroi, Mr. Arash Sigarchi, Mr. Behrouz Gheranpayeh, Mr. Bjjan Safsari, Mr. Ejlal Ghavami, Mr. Ezatollah Sahabi, Ms. Fariba Davoudi Mohajer, Ms. Fatemeh Kamali, Mr. Firouz Gouran, Ms. Fatemeh Govarai, Mr. Hassan Youssefi Echkevari , Mr. Hoda Saber, Mr. Hossein Ghazian, Mr. Hamed Motaghi, Mr. Kivan Samimi Behbani, Mr. Majid Tavaloui, Mr. Iraj Jamshidi, Mr. Latif Safari, Mr. Madh Amadi, Mr. Mana Neyestani, Mr. Mashallah Shamsolvaezin, Mr. Masoud Bastani, Mr. Mohamad Ghochani, Mr. Chammad Hassan Alipour, Mr. Mohammad Sedigh Kabovand, Mr. Mojtaba Lotfi, Mr. Morteza Kazemian, Ms. Narges Mohammadi, Ms. Noushin Ahamadi Khorassani, Ms. Parvin Ardalan, Ms. Parvin Bakhtiarynejd, Mr. Reza Alijani, Ms. Saghi Baghernia, Mr. Saide Madani, Mr. Said Saedi, Mr. Shadi Sadr, Mr. Siamak Pourzand, Mr. Taghi Rahmani, Ms. Tonya Kabovand, Mr. Yosef Azizi Banitrouf and Mr. Mohammad Javad Roh.

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