Reporters Without Borders

Repression stepped up yet again as Iran becomes world's biggest prison for journalists

Repression stepped up yet again as Iran becomes world’s biggest prison for journalists

Published on Sunday 21 June 2009.
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The Islamic Republic of Iran now ranks alongside China as the world’s biggest prison for journalists. The crackdown has been intensified yet again following Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s endorsement of the result of the 12 June presidential election and the opposition’s decision to call another demonstration on 20 June.

Iran now has a total of 33 journalists and cyber-dissidents in its jails, while journalists who could not be located at their homes have been summoned by telephone by Tehran prosecutor general Said Mortazavi.

“The force of the demonstrations in Tehran is increasing fears that more Iranian journalists could be arrested and more foreign journalists could be expelled,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The regime has been visibly shaken by its own population and does not want to let this perception endure. That is why the media have become a priority target.”

The press freedom organisation added: “The international community cannot continue to ignore the situation. It must have a clear and unanimous reaction that is proportionate to the gravity of these events. And there will never be any question of recognising the results of the 12 June election.”

Reporters Without Borders already wrote to the leaders of the European Union’s 27 member countries urging them not to recognise President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s reelection.

It has emerged that Mohammad Ghochani, the editor of Etemad Meli (a daily owned by Mehdi Karoubi, one of the opposition presidential candidates), was arrested at 2 a.m. on 18 June. Intelligence ministry officials took him away to an unknown location, probably the security wing of Tehran’s Evin prison.

Ghochani is also the editor of the dailies Shargh and Hammihan and the weekly Saharvand Emroz. The publication of all these newspapers had already been suspended before his arrest.

Reporters Without Borders has also learned that blogger and human rights activist Shiva Nazar Ahari was arrested at her Tehran home on 14 June (see her blog: http://azadiezan.blogspot.com).

Husband-and-wife journalists Bahaman Ahamadi Amoee and Jila Baniyaghoob were arrested at midnight of 20 June by intelligence ministry officials in plain clothes who searched their home and then took them away to an as yet unknown location, probably the security wing of Tehran’s Evin prison.

A winner of the Courage in Journalism prize awarded by the International Women’s Media Foundation, Baniyaghoob edits a news website that focuses on women’s rights, Canon Zeman Irani (http://irwomen.net). Her husband, Amoee, writes for various pro-reform publications.

Reporters Without Borders has also been able to confirm that Ali Mazroui, the head of the Association of Iranian Journalists, was arrested in the morning of 20 June.

The BBC confirmed in the afternoonof 21 June that its Tehran correspondent, Jon Leyne, has been ordered to leave the country within 24 hours. Officials accused him of “supporting rioters”. The authorities had previously accused Britain of “conspiring“ against Iran.

Journalists and activists held in Evin prison are being put under a lot of pressure to make filmed “confessions” acknowledging their participation in a “velvet revolution.” Reporters Without Borders has also received many allegations of torture.

The state radio and TV broadcaster is meanwhile putting out false information about the opposition candidates and the cancellation of today’s demonstration. Foreign news agency correspondents are also being pressured not to report anything about the opposition.

A few hours after Ayatollah Khamenei’s speech yesterday endorsing Ahmadinejad’s election and banning any demonstrations, several videos were posted online showing individuals on rooftops chanting “Allah Akbar!” (see this Iranian blogger’s video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yZfm...).

After being blocked since 11 June, the Iranian news website Entekhab (www.entekhabnews.com/) has now been closed down on the orders of the Tehran prosecutor general.

At least 20 journalists had already been arrested since 12 June (see list below). Reporters Without Borders has not been able to trace many others. Some may have found refuge but others may now be with those of their colleagues who had already been in jail for some time. Even before the election, Iran was ranked as the Middle East’s biggest prison for journalists and cyber-dissidents.

Twenty-three journalists have been arrested in the week since the presidential election results :

14 June:

  • Somayeh Tohidloo, who also keeps a blog (http://smto.ir)
  • Ahmad Zeydabadi
  • Kivan Samimi Behbani
  • Abdolreza Tajik
  • Mahssa Amrabad
  • Behzad Basho, a cartoonist
  • Khalil Mir Asharafi, a TV producer
  • Karim Arghandeh, a blogger (http://www.futurama.ir/) and reporter for pro-reform newspapers Salam, Vaghieh and Afaghieh, who was arrested at his Tehran home.
  • Shiva Nazar Ahari (see her blog: http://azadiezan.blogspot.com).

15 June:

  • Mohamad Atryanfar, the publisher of several newspapers including Hamshary, Shargh and Shahrvand Emrouz, who has reportedly been taken to the security wing of Evin prison.
  • Saeed Hajjarian, the former editor of the newspaper Sobh-e-Emrouz, who was arrested at his Tehran home on the night of 15 June despite being badly handicapped.
  • Mojtaba Pormohssen, who edits the newspaper Gylan Emroz and contributes to several other pro-reform newspapers and radio Zamaneh. He was arrested in the northern city of Rashat.

16 June:

  • Mohammad Ali Abtahi, also known as the “Blogging Mullah,” who was arrested at his Tehran home. His blog: http://www.webneveshteha.com/.
  • Hamideh Mahhozi, arrested in the southern city of Bushehr.
  • Amanolah Shojai, who is also a blogger. Arrested in Bushehr.
  • Hossin Shkohi, who works for the weekly Paygam Jonob. Arrested in Bushehr.
  • Mashalah Hidarzadeh, arrested in Bushehr.

17 June:

  • Saide Lylaz, a business reporter for the newspaper Sarmayeh, who had been very critical of Ahmadinejad’s policies. He was arrested at his Tehran home.
  • Rohollah Shassavar, a journalist based in the city of Mashad.

18 June:

  • Mohammad Ghochani, the editor of Etemad Meli.

20 June:

  • Jila Baniyaghoob, editor of website Canon Zeman Irani (http://irwomen.net),
  • Bahaman Ahamadi Amoee,
  • Ali Mazroui, the head of the Association of Iranian Journalists.

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