The prosecution again put the media at the centre of its case during the fifth hearing before a Tehran revolutionary court on 14 September in the mass trial of opponents of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s reelection, this time going so far as to accuse Facebook and YouTube of waging a psychological war against Iran.
“This travesty of justice must be brought to an end,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The Iranian judicial authorities want to humiliate journalists and bloggers by staging forced confessions and requests for forgiveness. Journalists and ordinary Internet users are being tried just for sending emails and looking at news websites. The regime wants to punish not only professional journalists but also anyone accessing news and information.”
Mohammad Reza Niourbakhash, a journalist detained since 4 August, was one of the six defendants who appeared in court in the 14 September hearing. Represented by a court-appointed lawyer since the start of the trial, he was forced to read out a statement confirming his guilt and that of the politicians, in complete agreement with the prosecutor’s indictment. All six defendants confessed to having been manipulated by “false information on the Internet.”
The prosecutor directly attacked the social networking website Facebook and the video-sharing website YouTube during the 14 September session. “There are 25 million people in Iran who use the Internet,” he said. “The United States supported websites such as Facebook and YouTube with the aim of influencing the rioters and undermining the government’s position both nationally and internationally. Sites such as Facebook and YouTube were devised by the United States in order to wage a psychological war against Iran.”
The relatives of Ahmad Zeydabadi, an imprisoned journalist who was not in court on 14 September, said he is still refusing to read out the statement dictated by his interrogators. The wife of another jailed journalist, Mahdieh Mohammadi, said in an interview for radio Zamaneh that the judge told her Mohammadi had written a letter saying “he does not need a lawyer.” The judge nonetheless refused to show her the letter.
Since the start of the trial, the imprisoned journalists have not been allowed access to their own lawyers, who have in turn not been able to see case which the prosecution has prepared against their clients.
Lawyers linked to the intelligence services were instead assigned to the journalists by the Tehran prosecutor. Several journalists such as Mehdi Hossinzadeh and Shiva Nazar Ahari, who blogs on the women’s rights site Azadizan, are still being held in various sections of Evin prison, where they are under constant pressure to make confessions.
Access to Persianblog, Iran’s oldest blog platform, has meanwhile been blocked by the authorities since 14 September without explanation. The website confirmed that access was blocked and said it was trying to find out the reason from the authorities.
Reporters Without Borders has learned that Koroush Javan, a reporter and photographer arrested on 13 July, and Mirhamid Hassanzadeh, the editor of the Ghalamnews website, who was arrested on 4 August, have been freed on bail.