Reporters Without Borders deplores the fact that, as a result of arrests in the past few days, the number of journalists and netizens detained in Iran now exceeds 65. “This is a figure that is without precedent since Reporters Without Borders was created in 1985,” the organisation’s secretary-general, Jean-François Julliard, said. “The detainees include journalists based in Tehran and the provinces.”
At the same time, the Internet has been experiencing a great deal of disruption since the evening of 6 February and some mobile phone companies are no longer allowing users to send SMS messages. The measures appear to be part of a concerted effort by the authorities to prevent opposition protests during the Islamic Revolution’s 31st anniversary celebrations on 11 February.
Intelligence ministry officials arrested at least eight journalists yesterday and the day before and took them to unknown places of detentions. Those arrested include:
- Akbar Montajabi of Etemad-e Mell (a daily closed by the authorities)
- Ahmad Jalali Farahani (arrested a day after being fired from the Meher News agency)
- Mahsa Jazini of the Isfahan-based daily Iran
- Somayeh Momeni of the monthly Nasim Bidary
- Zeynab Kazem-Khah, an arts reporter for the ISNA news agency
- Amir Sadeghi, a photographer with the daily Farhangh Ashti
- Hassan Zohouri of the Mirass Farhanghi news agency
- Ehsan Mehrabi of the daily Farhikhteghan
- Vahid Pourostad of the daily Farhikhteghan
Reporters Without Borders has not received any news of several other journalists and netizens who were also reportedly arrested in recent days.
The press freedom organisation has learned that Ali Mohammad Islampour, editor of the Qasrnews blog and editor of the Navai Vaghat newspaper, was arrested on a charge of “publishing false information liable to upset public opinion” on 3 February after being summoned by a revolutionary court in the western city of Kermanshah.
In a press release yesterday, the intelligence ministry announced the arrests of seven journalists for “collaborating with Zionist satellite TV stations.” The journalists are accused of “receiving professional training abroad in the preparation of a velvet revolution,” disturbing public order and “collaborating with Radio Farda (Radio Free Europe).” A senior Radio Farda representative denied the allegation and said the station had no journalists in Iran.
In an open letter to international media that have been invited by the Iranian authorities to cover the 31st anniversary celebrations, ten Iranian exile journalists said they had detailed information from Iran about the government’s plans to give the impression that it is supported by most of the population. It not only wants to prevent an opposition rally on Azadi Square, where President Ahmadinejad will give his speech, but also to ensure that there will only be government supporters in the square, the letter said.
Inviting foreign journalists to cover the Islamic Revolution’s official anniversary was a trap, the journalists wrote. A government that has already arrested, jailed and charged journalists working for foreign news media, now wanted to demonstrate its popularity to the entire world and thereby conceal the protests, they said.
The letter added: “You are going to Iran not only as media representatives of the free world, but also as representatives of your Iranian fellow journalists who are either in prison or in exile outside Iran. Your host is a government that is anti-freedom, anti-free media, and one that violates the most basic human rights of its people.”
Reporters Without Borders wrote to United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navanethem Pillay on 4 February voicing concern about the situation in Iran and requesting an interview. The organisation also wrote to the foreign ministers of the European Union’s 27 member countries urging them to recall their ambassadors from Tehran “to protest against the arbitrary repression of government opponents, denounce the judicial farce of the Stalinist-style show trials and publicly express your concern about the imminent risk of executions.”