Reporters Without Borders has learned of the arrests of three more Iranian journalists, one of them two days ago. They bring the number of journalists detained in Iran to six.
“The Iranian regime is one of the most repressive in the world towards the media,” the press freedom organisation said. “Independent journalists are closely watched and constantly harassed. Arrests are frequent, and months can go by before the place of detention and charges are discovered. With six journalists detained, Iran continues to be the Middle East’s biggest prison for the press.”
Mohammad Sadegh Kabovand, the editor of Payam-e mardom-e Kurdestan (a weekly that was closed down in 2004) was arrested on 1 July by intelligence ministry agents, who searched his home and seized personal files, his computer hard disk and CD-ROMs. He was immediately taken to Evin prison.
Kabovand was sentenced on 18 August 2005 to 18 months in prison and a five-year ban on working as a journalist for “upsetting public opinion and spreading separatist ideas.” The sentence was reduced on appeal to a year in prison, which he never served. He founded a Kurdistan human rights organisation last year along with other journalists. Access to its website (www.insaniyet.com) has been blocked several times.
Said Matinpour of Yarpagh (an Azeri-language weekly based in Tehran) has been detained since 28 May, when he and his wife were arrested at their home in the northwestern city of Zanjan. He was transferred to Tehran two days later and is now being held in security section 209 in Evin prison. He has not been charged and neither his relatives nor his lawyer have been able to see him.
Mohammad Hassan Fallahieh, a journalist with the Arabic-language service of the public radio and TV broadcaster Al-Alam, has been detained since last November. He was tried by a revolutionary tribunal on 29 April on a charge of spying and was sentenced to three years in prison. He is also now being held in Evin prison’s security section 209. His lawyers says he has many health problems and needs a thorough medical examination.
The three journalists whose imprisonment was already known are Adnan Hassanpour of the weekly Asou, Kaveh Javanmard of the weekly Karfto and Ali Farahbakhsh, a contributor to several business newspapers including Sarmayeh.
Hassanpour was arrested on 25 January and is being held in Sanandaj, the capital of Kurdistan province. Javanmard was arrested on 18 December and his also being held in Sanandaj. Farahbakhsh was arrested on 27 November 2006 and is being held in Evin prison’s security section 209. Reporters Without Borders has already voiced deep concern about the state of health of Farahbakhsh, who has requested release for hospitalisation. Said Mohamadi, who is the editor in chief of Al-Alam as well as being a writer and poet better known as Moghanlou, was arrested by intelligence officers at Tehran airport on 22 June on his return from a trip to the Azerbaijani capital of Baku. He was freed two days later on bail of 100 million toumen (80,000 euros) pending trial on charges which the authorities have refused to reveal. His passport has been taken and he is banned from leaving the country.
The High Council for National Security has meanwhile written to the Iranian news media banning them from publishing articles about disturbances resulting from the petrol rationing that was introduced on 27 June. Reports about these development are nonetheless being posted on blogs and websites. Several reporters and photographers who went to the scenes of the disturbances were attacked by members of security forces or by rioters.