IFJ Condemns “Dirty Politics” of Iranian Judiciary as Press Closures Follow Court Travesty

The International Federation of Journalists today condemned the Iranian authorities over a catalogue of closures of independent media outlets and accused court officials of “a travesty of justice” in the Zahra Kazemi case.

Over the course of the past three weeks, three publications have been targeted for their reporting of the trial of the intelligence agent accused of murdering Canadian freelance photographer Zahra Kazemi. The dailies Vaghayeh Etfaghieh and Jomhuriat were suspended and the monthly Aftab, has been closed down indefinitely.

“There is a touch of dirty politics in the tyrannical approach of the General Prosecutor towards the media, which must be brought to an end,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “Blacklisting journalists and blatant negligence by the judiciary in the Zahra Kazemi case reflects the regime’s profound hostility to press freedom”.

Yesterday, the IFJ affiliate, the Association of Iranian Journalists (AOIJ) organized a sit-in involving close to 50 journalists in Teheran to protest against the suspension of Vaghayeh Ettefaghieh, Jomhouriat and Aftab daily newspapers. The first sit-in took place on 26 July and included the Nobel Peace Prize winner and lawyer of Zahra Kazemi, Shirin Ebadi and the families of imprisoned journalists.

On 19 July, Iranian journalists signed an open letter published in the Shargh newspaper about the closure of two moderate newspapers following action by the conservative judiciary to harass and censor the media. The letter was sent to Culture and Islamic guidance minister Ahmad Masjed Jamei and labour minister Nasser Khaleghi, both reformers, noting that the efforts to silence journalists violated articles 22, 28 and 43 of the national constitution, as well as the right to work and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Vaghayeh Ettefaghieh was suspended indefinitely on 17 July for "anti-regime propaganda," publishing "false news" and "insulting the Supreme Guide." The paper, largely staffed by journalists from the reformist daily Yas-e no, which was suspended on 18 February on the eve of the parliamentary elections, has sharply criticised the hardliners and the new parliament dominated by their supporters. The suspension order from the General Prosecutor Said Mortazavi mentioned that the paper was staffed by journalists from Yas-e no.

Jomhouriat, a new paper which has only published 12 issues, was suspended on 18 July for the same reasons, a few days after publisher Javad Khorami Moaghadam had been summoned by Mortazavi, who demanded in vain that he sack the paper's editor, Emadoldin Baghi, a leading reformer and rights activist.

The IFJ and the AOIJ are calling on the Iranian authorities to find those responsible for the death of Zahra Kazemi and to make sure that they are brought to justice.

The IFJ welcomes the initiatives being taken this week by Massud Hushmand-Razavi, the General Secretary of the AOIJ, who is currently in Mashhad city in the Northern Province of Khorasan in order to open the first branch of the Association outside of Tehran.

“Such steps are vital in order to expand the base structure for defending our colleagues’ rights,” said White. “In spite of Mortazavi’s efforts to silence the press including the shutdown of more than 120 reformist newspapers in four years and numerous journalists still in prison, journalists throughout the world will continue to provide full support for real change in Iran”.

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The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries