Freedom of expression and the right of assembly/protest – hallmarks of a democratic society – are seriously compromised in Iran. [Updated 14 Dec. 2010]
Freedom of expression and the right of assembly/protest – hallmarks of a democratic society – are seriously compromised in Iran through intimidation, arrests and imprisonment of journalists and political activists, the banning or censoring of newspapers, and government blocking of satellite broadcasts and social media.
After the arrests of several journalists and the director of Shargh daily, Shargh’s political journalist, Reyhaneh Tabatabei, was reportedly arrested Sunday morning. In addition, the newspaper’s website has been blocked.
Feminist website blocked for twentieth time – The Feminist School website, which focused on human rights and women’s rights in Iran, was blocked again, for the twentieth time since its establishment.
1. Journalist sentenced to 16 months in prison for calling Ahmadinejad a "lunatic" – Mashallah Shamsolvaezin has been sentenced to 16 months in prison on charges of insulting the President. In an interview with Al Arabiya (and/or BBC) television, Shamsolvaezin said Ahmadinejad was "repressive" and a "lunatic." Shamsolvaezin is spokesman for the Iranian Committee for the Defense of Freedom of the Press, and also vice president of the Association of Iranian Journalists.
2. The detention of five additional journalists and reporters in Iran means that Iran has overtaken China and is now in first place in the number of detained journalists. At present, 35 journalists and press activists are imprisoned in Iran.
3. Imprisoned journalist named Journalist of the Year – Abdolreza Tajik, currently in prison, has been named Journalist of the Year by Reporters Without Borders. Lawyer Shirin Ebadi accepted the award for Tajik, who was arrested in June (see below). Tajik was chosen for his reporting and his commitment to the defense of press freedom in Iran. A member of the Human Rights Defenders Centre and a determined free speech activist, he worked as political editor at many of the newspapers that have been closed by the authorities, such as Fateh (closed by the authorities in 2000), Bahar (closed in 2001), Bonyan (closed in 2002), Hambastegi (closed in 2003) and Shargh (closed in 2008). He often writes about free speech violations and arbitrary arrests of journalists.
Website of the late Grand Ayatollah Montazeri blocked – The new site of the late pro-reformist Grand Ayatollah Montazeri, set up after restrictions on the original site, has been blocked by the Iranian regime.
Green light to pro-Nazi cyberactivists – Iran’s Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance lifted the ban it had imposed on a pro-Nazi and anti-Jewish website, amid concerns by both conservatives and reformists. While it blocks about five million political, cultural, religious, and "indecent" websites, the Iranian Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance permitted the operation of a website called irannazi.ir, also called the Center for Historical Studies on World War I and Nazism. Read more here.
Websites of poet, writer blocked – The official websites of the Hushang Golshiri [prominent writer 1937-2000] Foundation and Ahmad Shamlou [1925-2000, considered a freedom poet] have been blocked. During the post-election unrest, the regime arrested protesters who commemorated Shamlou’s death and blocked roads leading to his grave.
They smell your breath,
lest you might have said I love you.
They smell your heart.
These are strange times, my darling.
The butchers are stationed at each
crossroads with bloody clubs and cleavers
This poem is often cited by the opposition; "the Butchers" refers to the regime.
(Note: Both websites appear to be accessible from Israel.)
Iran confirms espionage charges against German journalists (see Oct. 20 below) – Two German journalists working for Bild am Sonntag and arrested in Iran for interviewing the son of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani (a woman sentenced to death by stoning for adultery), are being held on espionage charges. Iranian television broadcast apparently forced footage of one of the Germans, with a Farsi voiceover, accusing Mina Ahadi, (member of the International Committee Against Executions and the International Committee Against Stoning) of tricking him into coming to Iran (video).
New wave of internet censorship in Iran – Head of Internet Crimes Court Reza Jafari announced continuous state-of-the-art monitoring of all websites in Iran by the court’s internet crime division. Since last week, the official website of former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami has been blocked.
Member of Democratic Party to be flogged for using satellite dish – A Revolutionary Court imposed a deferred sentence of three years in prison and thirty lashes on Mansour Faraji, member of the Democratic Party of Iran, on charges of “compromising national security” and “propagating against the regime” by means of publishing a public statement and membership of the aforementioned political party. In a separate sentence, to be executed immediately, Faraji was ordered to pay a monetary penalty and receive thirty lashes for “leaving Iran illegally” and using a satellite dish.
1. Friday sermons censored for critical remarks against Government – The Conservative daily Jomhouri Islami reported about the Friday sermon leader of Ardebil, whose speech during the sermon was censored on the Iranian state-owned broadcasting service. He had criticized Ahmadinejad’s failure to implement his promises. Ayatollah Jannati, the Friday sermon leader of Tehran, was also censored when he criticized the Government’s implementation of the subsidy reform law.
2. Former President Khatami’s website blocked – Iranian authorities have blocked access within Iran to the official website of the Reformist former president and key figure of the Iranian opposition, Seyed Mohammad Khatami.
1. The Dangers of Being a Journalist in Iran – According to “Rahana”, the two German journalists who interviewed Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani’s son and lawyer, were detained in a raid conducted by Iranian security forces, and are due to appear in court on Tuesday October 19. Der Spiegel posted a related article under the title, “The Dangers of Being a Journalist in Iran”.
2. Persecution of bloggers continues, with harsher sentences – Mahdi Khazali, an ophthalmologist, blogger and the son of a well-known hard-line cleric, was arrested on October 13. Khazali had been a vocal critic of Ahmadinejad. Khazali’s arrest came just a few weeks after blogger Hossein Ronaghi Maleki was sentenced to 15 years in prison for insulting Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and the president and creating and using proxy software to circumvent government filters.
Report of UN Sec-Gen about human rights in Iran: cause for concern – The Secretary-General of the UN General Assembly published his annual report entitled “The Situation of Human Rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran”. The report states, “Since the previous report of the Secretary-General and the adoption of resolution 64/176, there have been further negative developments in the human rights situation in the Islamic Republic of Iran…[including] an intensified crackdown on human rights defenders, in particular women’s rights activists, journalists and Government opponents in relation to post-election unrest in June 2009. Concerns about torture, arbitrary detentions and unfair trials continued to be raised by United Nations human rights mechanisms." The report notes progress or lack thereof in implementing Resolution 64/176, including the following areas: "freedom of religion, freedom of peaceful assembly and association, freedom of opinion and expression and due process of law rights, including in relation to the events following the presidential elections in June 2009.”
New crackdown on Reformist media: newspapers will be closed down for publishing photos of opposition leaders – Ehsan Ghazizadeh, Director-General of the Domestic Press Department at Iran’s Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, announced that publications that publish statements or photos of the “sedition leaders” (namely, opposition leaders, including the Green Movement’s leaders) would be warned and, if they ignored the warning, have their license revoked. “Instead of working in an open atmosphere, some people like to focus only on a particular issue,” Ghazizadeh said, and added, “Over the past year, the licenses of several publications were revoked in several provinces, because they dishonored the principles of the system, the position of Sources of Emulation (i.e. senior clerics) and the Islamic Guardian Jurisprudent (i.e. Supreme Leader Khamenei)” (IRNA, October 16, Reuters, October 17). See item from August 24.
Senior reformist arrested for writing in blog – The Islamic Iran Participation Front (IIPF) issued a statement that reads: “Dr. Ali Shakoori-Raad, prominent member of the Central Council of Islamic Iran Participation Front, was arrested yesterday. The only crime Dr. Shakoori-Raad has been arrested for the crime of speaking, expressing his views and writing in his personal blog.”
Reporters Without Borders condemned the expulsion from Tehran of Ángeles Espinosa, the correspondent of the Spanish daily El País. RAHANA claims Espinosa got into trouble because of an interview in July with Ahmad Montazeri, the son of the late Grand Ayatollah Montazeri, a critic of the regime (See also Reuters report: Iran expels Spanish journalist). Reporters Without Borders also criticized the arrest of two German journalists who interviewed the son and lawyer of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, the woman sentenced to death by stoning for adultery. The Iranian news agency INSA quoted prosecutor-general Golam Hossein Mohseni Ejeie as confirming the arrests of two foreigners who had “entered Iran as tourists.” Angela Merkel says the German Foreign Ministry was working to free two Germans in Iran.
• Imprisonned blogger and human rights activist goes on hunger strike – Hossein Ronaghi, a blogger and human rights activist who was sentenced to 15 years in prison, has gone on hunger strike in protest of the heavy punishment and his deprivation of due process. Ronaghi had been arrested a year ago at his father’s house in Tabriz, when his identity as the person behind his pseudonym’s blog had been exposed. He was held at Evin Prison in solitary confinement for ten months.
• Journalist sentenced to four years and 74 lashes – Saeid Razavi Faghih, a journalist, was sentenced to four years of imprisonment and flogging of 74 lashes on charges of “propagating against the regime”, “defaming the Supreme Leader” and “participation in illegal demonstrations”. He had been arrested a few months ago upon his return to Iran from abroad, following the confiscation of his passport.
Iranian regime: Facebook and Twitter are Iran’s “hidden enemies” – Iran’s state-owned television accused Facebook and Twitter of being Iran’s “hidden enemies” and tools used by Western intelligence agencies in order to recruit new members and gather data on individuals. The Mardomak website posted a video of the report. According to the report, “the aim of Facebook is to identify people for special operations for Western spying agencies”. The report is a sign of Iran’s growing concern over the popularity of social-networking websites among young Iranians, many of whom have used Facebook to share news, images, and videos of protests and information about the plight of political prisoners.
Editor of students’ magazine sentenced to six months – A Revolutionary Court imposed six months of imprisonment on Fatemeh Nasirpour, a woman, student-activist and editor-in-chief of the students’ magazine at the Open University of Tabriz. Nasirpour was convicted of “propagating against the regime” following publication of a special International Women’s Day issue of the students’ magazine.
Shiva Nazar Ahari, a journalist and human rights activist, was sentenced to six years of imprisonment in exile. She was indicted with “terrorist activities”, “compromising national security” and other similar charges, following a year of detention in Evin Prison, including 100 days in solitary confinement.
Iranian opposition websites report that the Iranian president ordered the National Security Council to forbid publication of images and news reports related to the reformist leaders Mir-Hossein Mousavi, Mahdi Karroubi and Mohammad Khatami in the official Iranian press. The report further reveals that most members of the Council objected to the presidential demand, but it is being implemented by the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance nonetheless.
Another three Iranian periodicals banned – The Committee for Supervision of the Press ordered the cancelation of the license of two magazines, Sepidar and Parastu, and the suspension of the publication of the Asia newspaper. These periodicals were accused of publishing images and contents deviating from public moral standards.
Secretary of Iran’s journalists union sentenced to six years and banned from journalistic activity – Journalist Badrolsadat Ofidi, who serves as the secretary of the Iranian journalists’ union, was sentenced to six years of imprisonment and a five-year ban from any journalistic activity. He was indicted on charges of participation in illegal demonstration and propagating against the regime.
Ahmadinejad’s media advisor criticizes censorship – In an interview for Iranian Journalist Day, Mehdi Kalhor, Ahmadinejad’s media advisor, said that the efforts by governments to control, limit and censor the media are ineffective and lead only to diminished public exposure to state-controlled media. Kalhor harshly criticized the practice of attempting to shame political rivals – implying the leaders of the reformist camp – and accusing them of having connections with foreign enemies, as well as the fact that official national media avoided reporting on the 2009 post-election events. For example, IRIB remained silent on post-election events and did not air the protestors’ famous "silent demonstration" held three days after the election,. Later in the interview Kalhor referred to closing or suspending newspapers by the Press Supervisory Committee on the charge of publishing items that endanger national security; he said that closing down newspapers and other media in fact helps generate potential "anti-revolutionaries", as those people who lose their jobs when the newspaper is closed will end up developing anti-regime sentiments when they can no longer earn a living. Kalhor bitterly criticized the IRIB director for "creating a censor-oriented image in the mindset of society," and said that Ayatollah Khamenei and Ayatollah Rafsanjani were "tortured" by the previous regime because they were asking for freedom of speech.
1. Family of imprisoned journalist expresses deep concern over his fate – In an open letter addressed to the Iranian judiciary and prison authorities, the family of Abdolreza Tajik, who was arrested 40 days ago, expresses deep concern over his fate. The letter further tells about a conversation between Tajik and his sister during her visit to the prison. Tajik told his sister that he had been “dishonored” in the presence of a deputy prosecutor and an interrogator. Tajik reportedly refused to explain what he meant by “dishonored”, and just told his sister to inform his lawyer and the state prosecutor, saying, “They will understand what it means”.
2. Journalist receives one-year sentence and five-year ban from political activities – Emad Baghi, who had been taken into custody in December 2009 and recently released on bail, was sentenced to one year of imprisonment and banned from political activities for a period of five years.
Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF) estimates that about three-thousand media workers in Iran have lost their jobs since the beginning of the post-election crackdown conducted by the regime. Many editors are now afraid to hire any of those who used to work for the dozens of pro-Reformist publications closed down by the regime. Reports received by RSF in the past month or so indicate that journalists were summoned to the Iranian Intelligence Ministry ahead of the presidential elections’ anniversary, and forced to sign an obligation to avoid participation in or coverage of protests on that day.
Javad Moghimi, the photojournalist whose iconic image made the cover of Time Magazine says his immediate boss, Majid Saidi, has been released on bail and is now awaiting trial, having been charged with compromising national security and taking photographs of protesters. “If the Islamic Republic of Iran can arrest a photojournalist and charge him with compromising national security or taking photographs of the protesters, it is a joke to say we have freedom of speech. There is no freedom as long as they arrest people for the ‘crime’ of taking photos of demonstrations.”
June 3 weekly report
New York Times correspondent Nazila Fathi has asserted this week in an interview with a US-based Iranian TV network that the situation of professional journalists in Iran is horrible: "The Islamic Republic has restricted the Green Movement tremendously by jailing, applying pressure, closing down the internet, disrupting phone lines and creating an atmosphere of fear."
Reformist activist sentenced to 5 years in prison for contacting foreign press – The appellate court sentenced Mohsen Amin Zade, a member of the reformist Mosharekat Front, to 5 years in prison, on the charge of participating in an illegal protest and propagating against the regime by interviewing to foreign press.
1.Filmmaker and Journalist Union’s secretary to remain in custody – The secretary of the Iranian journalists’ union, Ms. Badrolsadat Mofidi, and the Iranian renowned filmmaker, Mr. Jafar Panahi, are still held in custody at Evin Prison’s security ward. Modifi and Panahi have been held in custody for four and two months respectively. Panahi’s condition is unclear. Another Iranian filmmaker recently arrested is Mohammad Ali Shirzadi. Amnesty International called for the release of the two detained filmmakers.
2.Unwelcome books removed from Tehran International Book Fair:
a. Documentation of the Holocaust
b. Exhibit of the works of late pro-Reformist Grand Ayatollah Montazeri, Ayatollah Beheshti and Grand Ayatollah Yusuf Sanei.
c. Books using “false” name for the Persian Gulf (namely, Arabian Gulf) – The Egyptian exhibition was closed down. Tehran Police Chief Hossein Sajedinia said, “Police on patrol disguised as visitors stumbled upon a book entitled ‘Arabian Gulf Encyclopedia’, offered in the Egyptian pavilion at the Tehran International Book Fair”. “Consequently”, he said, “the pavilion was closed down and police forces recovered the distributed copies of the book with the help of TIBF officials and judicial authorities”.
d. Books about the Baha’i faith
e. Foreign books on International Relations calling Iran a supporter of terrorism
f. Books propagating Wahabism, Budhism, treatises on meditation, books on Zen, etc.
New restrictions, this time cultural and social:
1. Foreign phrases are forbidden in titles of Iranian films – The Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance announced a new cabinet decision that prohibited any use of foreign language phrases in the titles of Iranian films. A similar order existed so far only with regard to advertisements. The order effects all movies currently produced in Iran.
2. Supreme Leader outlaws humor – Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, said that imitating the distinct accents and speech characteristics of minorities and provincial city residents in Iran for the purpose of humor or mockery is prohibited by Islamic law. Persian accents and dialects differ in almost every city, with Tehran’s dialect being considered mainstream. Especially unique dialects are heard among ethnic minorities like the Kurds, the Turks etc. These unique dialects have been the source of many jokes for generations. Now, the Supreme Leader announced that “joking at the expense of the distinct accents of brave heroes who had taken part in the defense of Iranian soil in the past 100 years, is against the law of Islam”. Khamenei himself belongs to the Azeri minority, whose accent is the source of many popular jokes in Iran.
3. Men and women may not sit together at Internet cafés in Mashhad – Iran’ Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance published a series of restrictions on Internet cafés in the holy city of Mashhad. From now on, a man may not sit next to a woman at the Internet cafés in Mashhad. Furthermore, anyone who wishes to open an Internet café in Mashhad must be married, above 30, and must install video cameras throughout the place. The business and its interior must be visible from the street, and it may not be located in a passageway. Finally, an Internet café must not be located near a girls’ school.
4. Non-Islamic parties in kindergartens forbidden – Kindergartens in Iran received an order saying that non-Islamic parties, such as Christmas parties, are strictly prohibited. The general manager of the Iranian Health Organization, who is also in charge of this issue, announced that the license of several kindergarten had been revoked since they did not follow the rule of Islam appropriately. He added that kindergartens must make the young children acquainted with the Islamic values and tradition.
1. Google groups filtered – Google groups has been added to the list of filtered websites in Iran. It should be noted that Gmail and Google Reader are also filtered (Mardom Salari, April 17).
2. Four months in prison for publishing an article about Majlis chairman – Jafar Behdad, the former general manager of the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) and the writer Amir Taher Hosein-Khan were charged with writing and publishing an article about the Majlis Chairman, Ali Larijani. Hosein-Khan was also sentenced to 74 lashes (Parleman News, April 20).
1. Iran to limit production of “shallow comedies” – Head of the Film Supervision Department at the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance said that from now on there would be further limitations on the production of “shallow comedies aiming at making the audience laugh in any possible way”. He added that even if such films would be produced in Iran, they would be allowed to be watched only in Iran and not abroad.
2. In Isfahan Province, Mohammad-Mahdi Ismaeiili, the political and security deputy governor-general, said a new centre would confront “the soft and cultural war against Iran” and the “spread of fake information and damage to the culture”. He said the ‘Soft War Base” would focus mostly on cultural activities and monitor news on websites, such as provincial websites. (Iranian TV, Isfahan Provincial TV, April 11).
Mohammad Nourizade, an Iranian filmmaker, is to be tried for letters he sent to the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei in protest of post-election events. The letters, which were sent shortly after the June presidential elections, criticized the events that followed the elections. Nourizade, who has been held in custody for 107 days now, published the letters on his personal blog. Nourizade has not been allowed to contact his family since he was arrested.
Mar. 18 – Apr 6
1. Iranian authorities systematically filter the word sabz, “green”, in text messages.
2. Iran’s Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance, Mohammad Hosseini, said that banning newspapers was “natural”.
ITU Radio Regulations Board urges Iran to end interference hampering EUTELSAT satellite operations.
Human rights activist and journalist arrested – Security forces arrested Mojtaba Gahastooni, a human rights activist, member of the International Association of Journalists and member of the Ahvaz Cultural Heritage Association. No information was made available as to his whereabouts.
March 1, 2010
1. Journalist arrested on Ashura Day sentenced to six years – Omid Montazeri, a journalist, poet and law student at Alame Tabatabei University, who had been arrested during the Ashura Day events, was sentenced to six years of imprisonment. His attorney was not allowed to be present at the court sessions, nor was he allowed to see Montazeri’s file. Montazeri’s mother is active in the Mourning Mothers movement. He was arrested when he arrived at the Intelligence Ministry’s HQ to inquire about the reason for his mother’s arrest. Montazeri is known for the articles he published on subjects related to culture and philosophy. His father, Hamid Montazeri, was a political prisoner during the 1980s and was eventually executed.
2. Iranian journalists and political activists reacted strongly to the statement that “no journalist or reporter had ever been arrested in Iran due to their journalistic work”, made by Mohammad Javad Larijani, head of the Human Rights Committee at the Iranian judiciary, during an interview with the CNN-journalist Christian Amanpour. Jila Bani Yaqoub, a veteran female journalist and human rights activist, posted an open letter on her blog, addressed to Javad Larijani, in which she wrote that if Larijani could prove that the journalists had been arrested due to violent or destructive activities, rather than their journalistic work, she would volunteer to spend the rest of her life in Evin Prison. Bani Yaqoub was arrested after the June elections and her husband, also a journalist, is currently in prison.
• Human rights activists report that the number of arrested journalists has reached 65. Among those arrested recently are Hassan Zoghoori, a veteran journalist in the field of culture, who was arrested in his house in the middle of the night; Vahid Pourostad, a journalist who has been working for several Reformist newspapers; Ali Madani, a journalist and human rights activist; and Amir Sadeqi, photographer for the newspaper Culture and Reconciliation. Sadeqi was accused of publishing pictures depicting Ashura Day’s events.
• Top Iranian general: those who work for the foreign media must face justice for espionage – Masoud Jazayeri, the Iranian Armed Forces Deputy Chief of Staff for Cultural and Defense Publicity, referred to the way foreign media channels, such as the BBC and VOA, had handled the post-election events, and called to bring the journalists, and other people who cooperated with these media outlets, to justice for espionage.
An inquiry initiated by the Iranian Committee for the Protection of Journalists revealed that no less than 57 journalists had been recently taken into custody by the Iranian regime (source in English). This number has not been matched by any single country since 1996.
Internet disruptions continue as February 11 approaches – As anti-regime protesters prepare for the February 11 rallies, Internet disruptions have been noticed in several major Iranian cities. According to reports, access to the Internet in the Iranian capital has become nearly impossible. The connection to the Internet has been cut off completely in several cities and provinces, such as Mashhad, Khorasan and Kermanshah.
On the first day of the “Ten Days of Dawn” Internet access difficulties have been reported throughout Iran.
Three detained members of the Committee of Human Rights Reporters, Mehrdad Rahimi, Shiva Nazar Ahari and Saeid Haeri, are reportedly subject to heavy pressure, in order to force them into a televised confession of the allegations against them. The three are accused of terrorist activity for sending emails about human rights violations in Iran to a website run by Mojahedeen Khalq. According to Iranian law, conviction of terrorist activity can carry a death sentence.
Intelligence Ministry: VOA Persian is used by Reformists to provoke controversies in Iran; also, accusations were directed at social networking sites such as Facebook and Balatarin during trials in Iranian courts.
• Security forces arrested a journalist along with his wife and daughter at a villa near Tehran . The journalist was accused of working for Voice of America (VOA).
• Masoud Bastani, a detained journalist, was transferred to the Rajaei Shehr Prison in Karaj. This prison is considered one of the harshest in Iran and is usually used for imprisonment of political prisoners or dangerous criminals. Bastani’s wife, Mahsa Amr Abadi, who is also a journalist, confirmed the report and said the transfer was allegedly due to journalism lessons that Bastani offered to other prisoners in Evin Prison. Masoud was arrested when he arrived at the Revolutionary Court to check the condition of his wife, after she had spent twenty days in solitary confinement following post-election events. He was sentenced to six years in prison for propagating against the regime and taking part in riots.
Journalist and scholar Mahdi Khalaji wrote about his father, Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi Khalaji, “my father was arrested for expressing his opinions. By initiating a crackdown on peaceful protesters and suppressing the first generation of the Islamic Republic, the government has simultaneously discredited its Islamic legitimacy and undermined its revolutionary credentials. This regime has transformed my father … into an enemy of the state. This is a revolution that eats its own children. It places its survival at risk.” The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran called for the immediate release of Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi Khalaji, who was arrested on January 12 at his home in Qom, and reportedly taken to Evin prison on January 19 to be placed in solitary confinement. Members of Ayatollah Khalaji’s family have been threatened with punishment by authorities if they protest against his arrest.
The Iranian committee for supervision of the press banned three more newspapers: the Farhang Ashti daily and the two weekly magazines Hemat and Moje Andishe.
How Iranian protesters use “new media” …”A protester Bluetooths a video clip to others nearby and they do the same. Suddenly, if the authorities want to keep the image from escaping the scene, they must confiscate hundreds or thousands of phones and cameras. The authorities have tried to fight back against such techniques and the Internet itself, but have fallen short. In November they announced that a new police unit, the “cyber-army,” would sweep the Web of dissent. It blocked Twitter feeds for a few hours in December and an opposition Web site. But other blogs and Web sites mushroomed faster than the government could keep up" (Nazila Fathi, New York Times correspondent who fled Iran after the elections http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/17/weekinreview/17fathi.html ).
1. Journalist sentenced to 3 years – Mohammed Reza Noorbakhsh, chief editor of Farhikhtegan and Jomhouriat, who had been arrested during the post-election incidents, was sentenced to a 3-year imprisonment.
2. Another journalist sentenced to a 10-year imprisonment for espionage – Nader Karimi Jooni, a journalist who has been detained for about a year in the security ward of Evin Prison, was convicted of harming Iran’s National Security and espionage, and sentenced to 10 years in prison. Karimi was chief editor of several periodicals, such as Siasat Rooz and Fekr.
• More journalists arrested in ongoing government crackdown – Roozbeh Karimi, Mohamad Reza Ahmadi and Moustafa Dehghan were arrested.
• Economist and journalist Saeed Laylaz has not been allowed to read out his defense in the appeal of his 9-year sentence.
More evidence that the regime feels threatened by Internet: According to official media, the cyber-monitoring department had detected and arrested “the major cyber-space conspirers”. The reports claim that the detainees, website administrators, were arrested for "running sites which harm national security by spreading lies and inciting the public".
• Reporters sans frontières: "Iran is once again the world’s biggest prison for journalists" – Iran is back at the top of the list of “biggest prisons for journalists” worldwide. This is according to a report published by “Reporters sans frontières”. The Paris-based international NGO counted 42 detained journalists in Iran.
• Amnesty International fears the Iranian authorities are in the course of implementing a program aiming at isolating Iranians from the outside world. The Iranian regime issued a list of more than sixty foreign institutions, including human rights organizations, and banned Iranian citizens from making any contact with them.
• Secretary of the website filtering working group and advisor to the prosecutor-general, Abdolsamad Khorramabad: “seditious websites filtered; we shall treat filter-breakers firmly."
Revealing statements from the regime – what they feel threatened by:
1. The secretary of the Permanent Passive Defence Committee, Davud Ahmadinejad, said: “the enemy has come to fight us through the internet. today, the enemy wants to destroy our structure through the internet and by changing behaviors. Therefore, universities must be in the centre of this battlefield”. He added that in today’s world, messages are sent from one spot to another remote spot in one second and this constitutes a threat for our country. Through ISOs [International Standard Organization] and standards in different fields such as medicine and even in the food industries, they want us to become what they want us to be (Mardom-Salari on January 3).
2. The Deputy Minister for International Affairs at Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence issued a list of 62 foreign research centers and media outlets with which any contact by Iranian citizens is forbidden. The list includes Yale University, Brookings Institute, Saban Centre, Washington Institute for Near East Policy, New American Centre Foundation, various Iranian human rights groups, the BBC, VOA and RaheSabz.net.
3. The BBC claims that Iran has been blocking various Eutelsat Hot Bird satellite signals since late December, following the BBC coverage of the death of the Reformist cleric Grand Ayatollah Hosein Ali Montazeri. BBC Persia and Voice of America from the United States are among the services immediately affected.
Female member of the Committee of Human Rights Reporters is held in custody at the security ward; there is no information about the condition of another detained member – Parisa Kakaei, member of the Committee of Human Rights Reporters in Iran, made first contact with her family after her arrest and informed them that she was held in the security ward of Evin prison. The condition of Mehrdad Rahimi, another arrested member of the Committee, is still unknown.
Journalists arrested following Ashura riots – Shahin Zeinali, a journalist from the Rooznamak newspaper, who is also a researcher of Iranian history and culture and spokesman for the “Coalition of Students Demanding Freedom”, was arrested in his house. Security forces arrested Ali Hekmat and his daughter, Mahsa Hekmat. Ali Hekmat is a member of the Central Committee of the Association for Protecting the Freedom of the Press. His daughter, Mahsa Hekmat, is a journalist of the Etemad newspaper. The forces also arrested Mohammad Reza Zahdi, the editor-in-chief of the banned newspaper Arya, who is also a member of the Freedom of the Press Association.
Dec. 31, 2009
Reporters without Borders summarized half a year of press freedom violations in Iran. Press freedom violations recounted in real time (12 June 2009 – 31 Dec 2009)
• Deputy Minister of Culture to journalists: “we will break your necks” – Mohammad Ali Ramin, the Deputy Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance, who also serves as the secretary of a foundation promoting Holocaust denial, told journalists “if you break the law, we will break your necks”. This remark came after journalists demanded information about their detained colleagues. The journalists also expressed their concern over the banning of tens of Reformist newspapers in recent years. Ramin said the journalists opposing the government were a “group of clowns”, and the newspapers banned could not be considered reformist. He said they were nothing but a "gang of pro-West outlaws" who know nothing about the Islamic regime.
1. Journalist and senior economic analyst sentenced to seven years in prison and 74 lashes – The lawyer of Saeed Leilaz, a journalist and senior economic analyst who has been in custody since the elections, announced that his client had been sentenced to seven years in prison, one year for publishing economic articles considered as anti-regime propaganda, one year for participating in one of the post-election demonstrations and five years for meeting with experts from foreign embassies in the course of his work as a journalist. In addition, Leilaz was sentenced to 74 lashes for making statements offensive to the regime’s leaders.
2. Security forces arrest another journalist – Ehsan Badaqi, a journalist and member of the Advar Tahkim association, was arrested Sunday by security forces.
1. Another Reformist newspaper closed down; Website’s editor convicted – The Prosecutor-General of Tehran Province announced that the manager of the week-long blocked Ayande website, affiliated with Ayatollah Rafsanjani’s son, would be indicted for making offensive remarks against the president. At the same time, another Reformist newspaper, Hayate No, was banned by the Media Supervisory Board. Hayate No is affiliated with Hadi Khamenei, the leftist brother of Iran’s Supreme Leader. Its ban came following an article it published about Student Day events. Security forces beat the newspaper’s photographer when he tried to document the events.
2. Detained journalist contacted his family after more than two weeks – Sasan Aqaei, the journalist who had been arrested two and half weeks ago, was allowed to make contact with his family for the first time since his arrest. In a phone call, he told his family he was in good condition, but his interrogation was expected to continue for at least two more weeks. He said he was held in solitary confinement at Evin’s security ward until the end of his interrogation.
Dec. 7, Student Day – In order to prevent real-time reports, the Iranian regime restricted the connection to the Internet and cut off all cellular phones in Tehran and other major cities.
On the eve of Student Day, Iran’s Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance issued a ban on foreign journalists to report from the center of Tehran, or convey information regarding Student Day events. However, the BBC and other Western networks broadcasted live from the scenes of some demonstrations. Security forces arrived at those locations and arrested the reporters and photographers.
Regime took a series of countermeasures ahead of Student Day:
1. Three-day ban imposed on foreign journalists reporting from central areas of Tehran – Iran’s Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance announced a temporary revocation of the working permits granted to foreign reporters and photographers. The revocation is effective in the central areas of Tehran for three days, December 7-9.
2. Internet and cellular networks cut off – According to several reports, during the next two days, Iranian citizens will have a very limited access to the Internet, and many cellular networks will be cut off, especially in Tehran and other major cities where demonstrations are expected. The head of the Public Relations Department at the Tehran Telecommunications Infrastructure Company said “it is possible that user overflow is the cause of the slow connection speed”.
3. Websites affiliated with the Reformist movement blocked; Reformist newspapers warned – Several popular websites known to be affiliated with the Green Movement and the Reformist faction were blocked by the Iranian authorities. The blocked websites include Ayande, affiliated with Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani’s son, and Mizan, affiliated with Mir-Hossein Mousavi. In addition, the Press Department of the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance issued a warning to four newspapers of the Reformist movement, Asrar, Aftab Yazd, Etemad and Hayate No. The warning reads: “the duty of domestic media is to protect the unity of public opinion against the propagandist and seditious attacks by foreign media. The press is expected to refrain from publishing content that changes the social and public opinion about certain differences of opinions among authorities”. The message further says that the aforementioned Reformist newspapers “have blown out of proportion and inculcated the illusion of disunity among authorities with their choice of titles and content on their front and second pages”.
Security forces arrest another journalist – Tahere Ryahi, a 25-year-old journalist of an Iranian financial newspaper, was arrested by security forces and taken to an unknown place. Her family is under heavy pressure not to reveal any information related to the arrest.
1. Intelligence Ministry arrests an Iranian contact person of the foreign Persian-speaking satellite channels – Official Iranian websites reported that the Intelligence Ministry had identified and arrested one of the Iranian contact persons who served the Persian-speaking satellite channels that broadcast from outside Iran. The reports said the man arrested had been in close contact with one of the "anti-Iranian television channels", and sent it news and information regarding events in Iran. The reports also said this man and his family had been involved in the recent riots and demonstrations.
• Photographers at Fars News and Jamejam newspaper were arrested on suspicion of smuggling pictures of post-election demonstrations to agencies abroad; two other photographers from Fars News – Hossein Salman Zade and Javad Moqimi – escaped Iran and were granted political asylum in the US (Oct. 18, 2009).
• Masoud Bastani, a journalist and political activist who had been in custody since the elections, was sentenced to six years in prison: one year for propagating against the regime and another five years for taking part in an illegal assembly and provoking riots (Oct. 19, 2009).
• Opposition leader accused of causing irreversible harm to Islamic honor: 100 Majlis members from the Conservative faction sent Iran’s prosecutor-general a lawsuit against Mir-Hossein Mousavi, urging him to take legal actions against Mousavi’s public statements which, they claimed, irreversibly harmed the honor of the Islamic regime and Iranian citizens (Oct. 20, 2009).
• Internal Security arrests participants in a prayer ceremony for the release of political prisoners – Internal Security forces broke into a house, where a prayer ceremony for the release of post-election political prisoners was held, and arrested 71 people (Oct. 25, 2009).
• No freedom of information: The head of the department for fighting computer crimes in Internal Security announced the approval of a law against computer crimes, according to which the state’s prosecutor-general is responsible for preparing a list of websites which should be blocked (Oct. 28, 2009).
• Official press was ordered to avoid coverage of November 4 events and censor news about Mousavi and Karroubi (Oct. 29, 2009).
[November 4 was the date on which Iranian students and militants took over the American embassy in Tehran in 1979, taking hostages from among its workers. The day is celebrated in Iran annually as "Anti-Imperialism Day". This year, Reformist activists plan to turn the occasion into a day of protest against all that happened since the presidential elections.]
• Ahmad Naqizade, a journalist and blogger, was violently beaten by security forces in West Azerbaijan Province, when taking pictures of signboards welcoming the new governor of the province with his cellular phone. Niqizade was indicted for disrupting public order and incitement. The Asre Iran website reported that the journalist was acquitted of all charges, while wondering how photographing greeting signboards could be considered incitement or disruption of the public order (Nov. 1, 2009).
• Reza Rafei Foroushani, one of the journalists who were arrested during post-elections events, was sentenced to 7 years in prison to be served immediately, and 5 additional years deferred adjudication, having been accused of espionage (Nov. 1, 2009).
• Ali Samizade, a senior journalist and member of the Information Department at Mosharekat Front, was arrested Saturday by security forces. With his arrest, the number of detainees from among the Front’s members reaches 34.
• Behzad Nabavi, a prominent Reformist figure and member of the Revolution Mujahideen organization, who has been in custody in Evin prison’s security ward since his arrest shortly after the elections, was indicted by Tehran’s prosecutor-general on various charges, most significantly: propagating against the regime, participating in a demonstration and causing traffic congestions (Nov. 2, 2009).
• A leading business newspaper affiliated with the Reformist movement banned, chief editor arrested – Iranian authorities have closed down Sarmayeh, a business newspaper known for its criticism of the government. The paper has been critical of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s economic and monetary policies. Its editor, Saeed Laylaz, was arrested following the elections on charges of instigating unrest. A number of Reformist newspapers and magazines have been closed down following the presidential elections (Nov. 3, 2009).
• “Journalists are still being kidnapped or arrested illegally in Iran,” Reporters Without Borders said on its website. “At least 100 journalists and cyber-dissidents have been arrested in the past 145 days (since the 12 June presidential election) and 23 of them are still being held." Amnesty expressed concern about detainees and their treatment. "Based on the experience of the summer unrest and our long-standing concerns about torture in Iran, those detained are now at risk of torture or other ill-treatment," said Malcolm Smart, director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme. Amnesty said 74-year-old protester Habibollah Peyman, a member of the National Peace Committee was among those beaten. It said AFP journalist Farhad Pouladi (see below) was being detained in an unknown location (Nov. 6, 2009).
• Fariba Pajooh, a journalist, was arrested at her parents’ house by agents from the Intelligence Ministry on the first day of Ramadan, August 22nd, 2009. She spent the first month of her detention in solitary confinement. During her detention, Pajooh has been subjected to verbal abuse and has been pressured by her interrogators into giving false confessions. She has yet to be charged. Pajooh started a hunger strike on Oct. 25, to protest her ongoing detention and uncertain situation. Nov. 1: Fariba Pajooh, was taken to the Evin prison clinic yesterday after she caught flu. Nov. 10: 80 days of detention have had a devastating toll on Pajooh’s health. Doctors have prescribed Xanax to help her cope with anxiety but since yesterday prison officials are refusing to give her the medication.
• Iran arrests journalists from Denmark, Canada and Japan for covering the Reformist protests –Three foreign journalists, two Canadians and a Japanese, were arrested for documenting the November 4 anti-regime protests without official permission. The Danish Union of Journalists reported the arrest of one of its members, Nils Krogsgaard. Iran’s Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance barred local and foreign journalists from covering the events, except the official anti-American demonstration near the former US embassy, organized by the Iranian government.
• A journalist to be tried for reporting about the Special Forces’ attack on students at Tehran University – Mazyar Khosravi, the chief editor of the Ham Mihan website, is going to face trial, accused of reporting "false information", inciting the public and disrupting security and order. These accusations come following the report on his website about the attack of the Special Forces and plainclothes militiamen on students in Tehran University’s campus shortly after the presidential elections (Nov. 10, 2009).
• Detained journalist and human rights activist forced to leave Tehran and abandon journalism – Mahdi Mahmodian, a journalist and human rights activist who had been arrested about a month after the elections, was forced to sign an obligation to leave Tehran for several years and abandon journalism for good by his interrogators. Mahmodian has been kept in isolation since his arrest (Nov. 12, 2009).
• Electronic jamming of satellite broadcasts – None of the Iranian authorities took responsibility for the installation of the antennas that prevent reception of satellite channels broadcasting from outside Iran. The Iranian regime regards these broadcasts as the main tool in stirring up a “velvet revolution”. The authorities are also ignoring possible health implications – Khabar Online reported that in the past few weeks, people turned to medical centers in increasing numbers complaining about symptoms which could be the result of exposure to these strong jamming systems (Nov.10, 2009).
• Chief Editor of the "Journalists for Peace" website was arrested – Mazdak Ali Nazari, a journalist and chief editor of the "Journalist for Peace" website, was arrested several days ago. In a brief phone call with his family he confirmed he had been arrested, but said he did not know where he was being held (Nov. 15, 2009).
• Journalist kept in isolation for writing critical articles against the Iranian regime – Negar Sayeh, a journalist, blogger and head of District 9’s Youth Staff at Mir-Hossein Mousavi’s HQ, is still being kept in an isolation cell since her arrest a month ago. Her mother said that according to the prosecutor-general’s announcement, she was arrested for her scathing criticism against the regime’s leaders, which she had published on her blog (Nov. 15, 2009).
• The Iranian regime keeps suspending and banning newspapers – The prosecutor-general in the city of Barojard issued a ban on the publication of the Bahar magazine, probably due to a satirical column against the regime (Nov. 19, 2009).
• Another journalist arrested – Hasanali Mahdavi Cheshme Kachi, the chief editor of the Qarb newspaper and secretary-general of the Tosee Party in the city of Kermanshah, was arrested this week for “publishing false information and distracting public opinion” through his personal blog. Cheshme Kachi and his party supported Mahdi Karroubi in the presidential elections.
• Detained journalist back in isolation – According to reports from Evin prison, Bahman Ahmadi Amoei has been put once again in isolation cell. His wife, journalist Jila Bani Yaqoub, who had been arrested herself and released on bail, reported that all phone calls and other means of contact between detainees in that ward and their families were cut off immediately after her husband was transferred to the isolation cell (Nov. 19, 2009).
• Detained blogger sentenced to six years in prison – Ali Behzadi Nejad, a blogger arrested following the elections, was sentenced to six years in prison due to opinions published as talkbacks on his blog. Ali Behzadi Nejad is the nephew of Qorban Behzadi Nejad, head of Mir-Hossien Mousavi’s election campaign.
• Tehran daily suspended for a week due to an advertisement showing a Baha’i center – The Press Monitoring Committee suspended the publication of the Hamshahri newspaper for a week, due to a commercial tourist advertisement, published in the newspaper, showing a Baha’I center (Nov. 23, 2009). See also (English): http://www.earthtimes.org/articles/show/295925,tehran-daily-banned-for-printing-bahai-temple-picture.html
• Another journalist-blogger arrested – Sasan Aqaei, a journalist-blogger, was arrested in his house Monday. Agents of the Intelligence Ministry searched his house and confiscated some of his personal belongings. No information is currently available as to the accusations against him or his whereabouts. A month ago, Aqaei was summoned to the Intelligence Ministry and interrogated for several hours (Nov. 24, 2009).
• Journalist sentenced to five years in prison followed by exile – Ahmad Zeydabadi, a journalist and member of the Tahkim Vahdat organization, who had been arrested shortly after the elections, was sentenced today to five years in prison followed by exile. At the same time, the amount of bail for a provision release was increased to 350 million toman (260,000 euros) (source) (Nov. 24, 2009).