IRAN: Provisional release used as censorship tool
: two journalists summoned to serve sentences; another fired under ministry orders; over 30 forbidden to work
IFEX - News from the international freedom of expression community
______________________CAPSULE REPORT - IRAN
30 November 2006
Provisional release used as censorship tool: two journalists summoned to serve sentences; another fired under ministry orders; over 30 forbidden to work
SOURCE: Reporters sans frontières (RSF), Paris
**New case and update to IFEX alerts on the Baghernia case of 6 September 2006, 1 August and 15 July 2003; updates alerts on the Kabovand case of 18 September 2006, 24 and 8 August 2005; please note that in previous alerts the journalist's name was sometimes spelled Kabudvand**
(RSF/IFEX) - The following is a 28 November 2006 RSF capsule report:
How provisional release is turned into a tool of censorship
List of journalists banned from working in Iran
Since ultraconservative President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad came to power in June 2005 with a team consisting above all of former revolutionary guard commanders and intelligence officers, the repression of journalists in Iran has become more subtle and less visible, but it continues to be as effective as ever and to maintain Iran's position as a leading violator of free expression, said Reporters Without Borders.
Using arbitrary arrest and incarceration to decimate its independent press, the Islamic Republic has been the Middle-East's biggest prison for journalists and cyber-dissidents since 2000.
Nowadays fewer journalists are imprisoned in Iran but this does not mean the authorities have relaxed the pressure on the press. Journalists are now often released provisionally after several days or weeks in detention, but no date is set for their trial, still less for their acquittal or the withdrawal of charges. Sometimes they are given prison sentences without ever being ordered to report to prison.
Prosecutions that are delayed and sentences that are not implemented are threats that hang over journalists and prevent them from writing freely. The Ahmadinejad government and the judicial authorities have turned the entire country into the region's biggest open prison.
Most independent journalists or journalists who do not work for the government media are targeted by the authorities. One way or another is found to prevent them from working. At the same time, prosecutions are initiated against them and they have to pay large sums in bail (up to 60,000 euros) to get a provisional release while waiting for the case to come to trial.
These journalists are unable to work any more after getting out of prison. On the one hand, they are afraid of writing another article that might displease the authorities. One the other, many editors and publishers get clear instructions not to hire them. In some cases, the arrests of journalists are accompanied by the closure of the media outlet they work for.
The pro-reform daily "Rouzegar" was recently banned by the Press Surveillance Commission after giving jobs to journalists from the daily "Shargh", after "Shargh" was closed down by the authorities on 11 September 2006. The culture minister and Tehran prosecutor Said Mortazavi had sent the editor a list of journalists to fire, including former detainee Ahmad Zidabadi.
The daily "Vaghayeh Ettefaghieh" was similarly closed down in September 2004 after hiring many journalists from the daily "Yas-e no", which had itself been shut down in February of that year. The order closing "Vaghayeh Ettefaghieh" mentioned the fact that most of its staff came from "Yas-e no". The same year, the authorities tried to pressure the publisher of the daily "Jomhouriat" to dismiss his editor, Emadoldin Baghi, a leading pro-reform figure in the Iraqi media and press freedom advocate. After refusing to comply, "Jomhouriat" was itself finally closed on 18 July 2004.
Iranian journalists who choose to work for independent media are singled out for constant harassment. The cases of Issa Saharkhiz, Mohammad Sedigh Kabovand and Saghi Baghernia illustrate the plight of journalists in Iran. All three could be thrown in prison at any moment.
Saharkhiz, the editor of the monthly "Aftab" and the business newspaper "Akhabr Eghtesadi", was sentenced on 14 June of this year to four years in prison and a five-year ban on working as a journalist for "offence to the constitution" and "publicity against the regime." His lawyers were not notified of the verdict until 21 November. Although he has 20 days to appeal, Saharkhiz has refused to do so in protest against the arbitrary nature of his conviction. "Iranian justice takes its orders from Ayatollah Khamenei," says Saharkhiz.
Kabovand was the editor of the weekly "Payam-e mardom-e Kurdestan", which was published in both Kurdish and Farsi until its closure by the authorities in 2004. He was sentenced on 18 August 2005 to 18 months in prison and a five-year ban on journalist activity for "disrupting public opinion and disseminating separatist ideas." He was summoned by the Office for the Execution of Sentences on 22 September of this year, two years after the sentence was handed down.
Baghernia, the publisher of the business daily "Asia", was sentenced by the Tehran Supreme Court on 19 August to six months in prison for "propaganda against the regime" in the 5 July 2003 issue of "Asia", which included a photo of Maryam Rajavi of the opposition People's Mujahideen. Her husband, Iraj Jamshidi, the newspaper's editor, was arrested on 6 July 2003 for the same reason and was sentenced to a year in prison. Baghernia received her second summons to report to prison in early November, but has not been arrested.
Since the start of 2004, Reporters Without Borders has registered more than 30 cases of journalists fleeing Iran to escape prosecution.This is the list of Iranian journalists who are banned from practising their profession in Iran:
Mr. Abbas Abdi, Mr. Abbas Kakavand, Mr. Abbas Dalvand, Mr. Abolfazel Vesali , Mr. Abolghasem Golbaf, Ms. Azam Taleghani, Mr. Ahmad Zidabadi, Mr. Akbar Ganji , Mr. Ali-Hamed Iman, Mr. Ali-Reza Jabari, Mr. Ali-Reza Redjaï, Mr. Ali Reza Alavitabar, Mr. Amin Movahedi, Mr. Ali Mazroi, Mr. Arash Sigarchi, Mr. Behrouz Gheranpayeh, Mr. Bjjan Safsari, Mr. Ejlal Ghavami, Mr. Ezatollah Sahabi, Ms. Fariba Davoudi Mohajer, Ms. Fatemeh Kamali, Mr. Firouz Gouran, Ms. Fatemeh Govarai, Mr. Hassan Youssefi Echkevari , Mr. Hoda Saber, Mr. Hossein Ghazian, Mr. Hamed Motaghi, Mr. Kivan Samimi Behbani, Mr. Majid Tavaloui, Mr. Iraj Jamshidi, Mr. Latif Safari, Mr. Madh Amadi, Mr. Mana Neyestani, Mr. Mashallah Shamsolvaezin, Mr. Masoud Bastani, Mr. Mohamad Ghochani, Mr. Chammad Hassan Alipour, Mr. Mohammad Sedigh Kabovand, Mr. Mojtaba Lotfi, Mr. Morteza Kazemian, Ms. Narges Mohammadi, Ms. Noushin Ahamadi Khorassani, Ms. Parvin Ardalan, Ms. Parvin Bakhtiarynejd, Mr. Reza Alijani, Ms. Saghi Baghernia!
, Mr. Saide Madani, Mr. Said Saedi, Mr. Shadi Sadr, Mr. Siamak Pourzand, Mr. Taghi Rahmani, Ms. Tonya Kabovand, Mr. Yosef Azizi Banitrouf and Mr. Mohammad Javad Roh.
For further information contact Hajar Smouni, RSF, 5, rue Geoffroy Marie, Paris 75009, France, tel: +33 1 44 83 84 84, fax: +33 1 45 23 11 51, e-mail: email@example.com, Internet: http://www.rsf.org
The information contained in this capsule report is the sole responsibility of RSF. In citing this material for broadcast or publication, please credit RSF.
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