Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Association of Iranian Journalists Under Pressure !
Omid Memarian - 2006.11.28

The Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance and other government institutions are continuing their efforts to weaken Iran’s most prominent journalists association. Last week, security forces detained and interrogated a number of reporters who were returning from an educational seminar in Holland.
The Ministry of Culture also announced that it would recognize only the press identification cards that are issued by the ministry, though international organizations recognize the identification cards that are issued by the Association of Iranian Journalists (AOIJ). The ministry’s announcement is thus seen as another effort to infiltrate the AOIJ.
An AOIJ deputy, Badossadat Mofidi, tells ILNA, “The government’s effort to rule over the profession of journalism by issuing press cards is against all international norms, and the AOIJ hopes that the motivation behind the recent measure is just to better organize journalists. Nevertheless, the AOIJ warns about the consequences of the ministry’s action and believes that such actions should not be carried out by the government, because an inadequate and poor measure such as the one taken by the ministry will not have the desired consequences.”
The AOIJ, as the lone organization representing Iranian journalists, is the only organization recognized by the International Federation of Journalists to issue official press identification cards.
In the months since Ahmadinejad’s election to presidency, the Ministry of Culture and various security organizations have attempted to undermine the AOIJ as the only institution officially recognized by international organizations. The conservatives, who have been trying in the past few years to weaken civil society by creating parallel organizations, have been spending much time and effort in the past two years strengthening the Association of Muslim Journalists, an institution created to parallel to the AOIJ.
The ministry’s announcement comes despite of the fact that the AOIJ follows internationally recognized guidelines to issue press identification cards to those journalists who have been actively reporting for a minimum of three years. Alaeddin Zohourian, the Ministry of Culture’s press deputy, said earlier that the ministry is issuing press cards because other cards are not recognized by other organizations.
In the past few days, the AOIJ voiced its opposition to the treatment of Iranian journalists at the Mehrabad Airport. Mofidi has called for “the presence of a representative from the AOIJ” whenever journalists who attended the workshop in Holland are interrogated. Mofidi adds, “In addition, the journalists’ summons must all be based on legal charges and issued by a just court.” In Mofidi’s view, summons that are announced over the phone have no legal worth. Furthermore, “The AOIJ announces that it takes full responsibility for organizing the workshop and all of the related issues.”

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