The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has issued a renewed appeal for the government of Iran to show its commitment to press freedom and human rights by releasing the ever increasing number of journalists being held in the country.
According to statistics from IFJ affiliate, the Association of Iranian Journalists (AoIJ), there are now 27 journalists imprisoned in Iran – making it one of the worst jailers of journalists in the world. A number of those journalists have been imprisoned over the course of the last few months as the country’s government has stepped up its clampdown on freedom of expression and press freedom.
“President Rohani promised reform and change when he came into power, but the reality for media in Iran has been very different,” said IFJ President Jim Boumelha. “The country’s international relations have improved and negotiations are taking place over its nuclear program, but there has have been a brutal clampdown on free and independent media within its borders and an increase in the number of journalists imprisoned simply for doing their jobs and reporting the truth.
“We repeat our appeal for President Rohani and his government to apply the progressive stance they have shown in other areas of life to the work of journalism. There can be no more excuses. The time for action has come and the president must make good on his election promises by showing respect for the important role of journalists in the future of the Iranian nation.”
The latest journalists detained in the country are Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian and his wife Yeganeh Salehi, who works for the United Arab Emirates daily newspaper, the National. According to reports, the couple was arrested in their home on Tuesday 22 July. Their families and employers have not heard from them and no charges have been formally brought against them, but an Iranian judicial official has confirmed that they are in government custody. Two U.S. citizens working as freelance photographers are also believed to have been detained.
A number of women journalists have also been detained in recent months including leading figures Saba Azarpeik, Marzieh Rasouli and Reyhaneh Tabatabaei.
Azarpeik, a high profile independent journalist for the Etemaad and other reformist publications, has now been detained at an undisclosed location (possibly a detention centre in east Tehran) since 28 May. She was arrested during a raid on the office of the magazine Tejarat-e Farda, for which she is also a correspondent, but no formal charges against her have been made public.
Reports say that she has been detained because of her consistent coverage of the case of Sattar Beheshti, a blogger whose death in custody in 2012 highlighted torture and detention conditions in Iran, and her reports on the violent quashing of the rebellion of political prisoners in Evin prison in Teheran. On July 21 and 22, she appeared before Iran’s revolutionary court for a hearing in a separate case in which she is not involved. Her family says she is in poor physical and psychological condition and is suffering from severe back pain and weight loss.
Rasouli is charged with spreading anti-government propaganda and has been sentenced to two years in prison and 50 lashes. She writes on arts and culture in well-known reformists newspapers including Shargh and Etemaad. She was first arrested last January, given bail and subsequently arrested again.
And Tabatabaei has now been held in Evin prison for two months on the charge of propogating against the state’ and insulting conservative presidential candidates in 2013.
In addition, woman journalist Sajedeh Arabsorghi, who returned from France to Iran last year, has been jailed for one and half years, while Serajoddin Mirdamadi, who has been detained for the last two months after returning from France, was this week sentenced to six years in prison for undermining national security.
Giving the IFJ’s full backing to the AoIJ and journalists in Iran, Boumelha said: “We call on the Iranian judicial system to uphold its responsibility to respect the basic human rights that are guaranteed by the Iranian constitution and release all journalists being held in Iran. We also repeat our demand for ban on the offices of the AoIJ to be lifted so they can continue their work to support journalists and press freedom.”
For more information, please contact IFJ on +32 2 235 22 17
The IFJ represents more than 600 000 journalists in 134 countries