IRAN CALLS ON BRITAIN FOR THE RELEASE OF REPORTERS DETAINED IN IRAQ
TEHRAN, 31 July (IPS) Iran, with a laps of one month, reacted officially to the arrest of two of its nationals by the Americans in Iraq, calling on Britain to help their release.
Said Aboutalebi and Soheyl Karimi, working for the Iranian State-run, leader-controlled Radio and Televisions second channel network, were arrested on first July alongside a driver and an interpreter, both Iraqis, by American forces in a Shiite suburb of Baghdad while, according to the Iranians, were preparing a documentary on the daily life of the Iraqi people under American occupation.
Mr. Qolamreza Koochak, VVIRs bureau Chief in Baghdad, was the first to disclose the news of the arrest of Aboutalebi and Karimi on 19 July, provoking no reaction form Iranian officials, then overwhelmed by the tragic death of a Canadian-Iranian photojournalist while in the custody of judicial and security services in the one hand and mounting international pressures over its nuclear programs on the other.
Though American authorities in Baghdad had immediately confirmed the information and stated that the Iranian authorities had been informed of the arrest of the pair via "routine diplomatic channels", but the event continued to be ignored in Tehran for unexplained reasons.
But on Wednesday, a spokesman for the Allied Forces in Iraq said the two men were engaged in "activities harmful to the US interests" and are detained in a high security detention centre.
"They pretended that they are journalists, but they were acting in a very different manner when arrested", the spokesman added, without explaining what the detainees had done harming American interests?
Iranian Foreign Affairs Ministrys spokesman, reacting belatedly to the event, described the arrest of the journalists as "unacceptable" and on Thursday, the Government of President Mohammad Khatami urged the Foreign Affairs Minister to follow up the incident using all available diplomatic channels.
Although 162 deputies called on Mr. Khatami to do "all he can" for the release of the journalists, but observers were surprised at the very slow motion and a near indifference Iranian authorities, but particularly the ruling conservatives media, including the Voice and Visage of the Islamic Republic (Iranian Radio and TV), known for their fierce anti-Americanism, showed to the matter, confirming a widely spread sentiment among Iranian journalists that the two document-makers might not be professional reporters.
"It is an established fact that there is a very close working relationship and coordination between the VVIR and Iranian security and intelligence agencies, with almost all the offices of the Iranian Broadcasting abroad serving as a cover for the intelligence machine controlled directly by the office of the leader, Ayatollah Ali Khameneh'i", explained a former high-ranking VVIR employee living now in exile somewhere in the West.
According to the official news agency IRNA, Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister for Euro-American Affairs Ali Ahani called on Wednesday on the British Deputy Head of Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq John Sawers for the "immediate release of two Iranian TV reporters captured by US troops in Iraq while making a documentary film on Iraqi people".
While Iranian media remain silent, the Paris-based international press watchdog Reporters Sans Frontieres denounced the arrest of the Iranian reporters and the New York-based Committee for the Protection of Journalists, in a letter to Paul Bremer, the US appointed Governor of Iraq, asked him to inform the public about the reasons Aboutalebi and Karimi had been detained.
A representative of the International Red Cross in Baghdad who visited the arrested men on Wednesday for the first time said they were in "relative good health" and might communicate with their families soon, but confirmed that they were guarded under "high security measures". ENDS REPORTERS DETAINED 31703 http://www.iran-press-service.com/