Iran Journalists Call for Release of 21 Colleagues
August 08, 2003
TEHRAN -- Iranian journalists on Friday called for the release of 21 imprisoned colleagues, many of whom have been detained in the past few weeks making Iran the biggest jail for journalists in the Middle East.
''Every morning when I want to go to work I feel this could be my last day and they will arrest me,'' Akbar Montajebi, who writes for the liberal Yas-e No newspaper, said at a sit-in organised by the Trade Union of Iranian Journalists.
''And when I get to the office, I can see the same feelings in the eyes of my colleagues,'' he said.
About 200 people attended the sit-in, held on the Islamic Republic's annual Journalists' Day.
The print media has been a battleground in recent years between reformers who advocate greater freedom of speech and conservatives who fear too much press freedom may undermine religious values and Iran's Islamic political system.
Around 100 liberal publications have been shut down in the last four years, often as the result of closed door, jury-less court hearings.
According to the Paris-based rights group Reporters Without Borders (RSF), at least 14 journalists have been arrested in Iran in the last few weeks on charges ranging from ''propaganda against the regime'' to ''publishing an improper photograph.''
RSF says Iran has more journalists behind bars than any other country in the Middle East.
''Those lucky enough to have been freed have talked of very harsh conditions of detention, psychological pressure and mistreatment,'' Robert Menard, secretary-general of RSF, said in a statement earlier this week.
Last month a Canadian photojournalist died in custody after receiving a severe blow to the head following her arrest for taking photographs outside a Tehran prison where many political dissidents are held.
The wave of newspaper closures and arrests has intimidated those journalists who continue to work, said Mohsen Kadivar, a dissident cleric who addressed the sit-in.
''Right now there is self-censorship and our newspapers are not even mentioning the main issues that are happening in society,'' said Kadivar, who was convicted in 1998 of engaging in propaganda against the Islamic state and jailed for 18 months.
Kadivar read out the names of all 21 journalists currently in jail and criticised conservative-controlled constitutional watchdogs for blocking a Press Law which would have improved the rights of journalists in the country. http://famulus.msnbc.com/FamulusIntl/reuters08-08-085920.asp?reg=MIDEAST