The International Federation of Journalists today condemned the Iranian authorities for the sentencing of web journalist, Arash Cigarchi, to 14 years imprisonment following interviews he had given to the BBC World Service and the US financed, Radio Farda, last week. Cigarchi was convicted of, among other things, espionage, colluding with hostile governments and endangering national security.
“The Iranian government is continuing its purge of independent voices by punishing Cigarchi just for speaking to foreign journalists,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary.
The Association of Iranian Journalists, an affiliate of the IFJ, protested that Cigarchi was tried without legal defence and in a closed court. They called for the case to be tried before a jury, in a public court and in accordance with Article 168 of the Iranian Constitution.
Masoud Hooshmand Razavi, General Secretary of the Association of Iranian Journalists told a visiting IFJ delegation that, “We hope the Court of Appeal will rectify the order of the Tribunal and that he will be freed as soon as is possible.”
In the past seven years over 100 papers have been closed. Many journalists have been jailed and other media staff forced out of their jobs for speaking their minds in a country where dissent is disciplined by clerical courts that interpret the constitution. Journalists had turned to the Internet as the remaining public space where they could freely express themselves until last October when up to 20 web-loggers and web-technicians were arrested. They were later released following protests by the Journalists’ Association and other civil society groups.
Despite the evident erosion of press freedom in recent years, Iranian journalists tell the IFJ that they remain optimistic about the future and that they will eventually win their struggle for press freedom.
“Journalists are putting a brave face on the terrible conditions they work in” said Aidan White. “It is vital that we do what we can to give them solidarity.”
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The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries