Reporters Without Borders firmly condemns the growing crackdown on independent Iranian and foreign journalists who want to relay what is being said on the streets and to tell the world what is happening in Tehran and other parts of Iran.
A total of 10 journalists have been arrested in the five days since the results of the presidential election were announced.
“The arrests are growing and we are without news of many journalists,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The harassment of foreign journalists has gone too far. The authorities clearly want to get rid of all these unwanted witnesses. Does the regime really hope to conceal an event of this scale from the outside world?”
Around 10 opposition activists, politicians and civil society leaders have been arrested in Tehran and in the major provincial cities of Tabriz, Ispahan and Shiraz since 15 June. Reporters Without Borders has been told that many of those detained have been mistreated.
Mohamad Atryanfar, the publisher of several newspapers including Hamshary, Shargh and Shahrvand Emrouz, has been detained since 15 June. He has reportedly been taken to the security wing of Tehran’s Evin prison.
Although seriously disabled, former Sobh-e-Emrouz editor Saeed Hajjarian was arrested at his Tehran home on the night of 15 June. A pro-reform daily founded in June 1997, shortly after Mohamed Khatami’s election as president, Sobh-e-Emrouz exposed the involvement of politicians and intelligence officials in a series of murders of dissident intellectuals and journalists in 1998. Seen as one of the strategists of the pro-reform movement, Hajjarian was the victim of a murder attempt in March 2000 that left him badly paralysed.
Mohammad Ali Abtahi, also known as the “Blogging Mullah,” was arrested at his Tehran home on the morning of 16 June. A vice-president during the Khatami presidency, he had been acting as an adviser to Mehdi Karoubi, one of the opposition candidates in last week’s presidential election. The news of his arrest was posted on his blog Webneveshteh (http://www.webneveshteha.com/). He is the second well-known blogger to be arrested since the election. The first was the journalist Somayeh Tohidloo (http://smto.ir), arrested on 14 June.
Aldolfatah Soltani, a lawyer who represents many imprisoned journalists and who is a member of the Human Rights Defenders Centre, was arrested on the orders of the Tehran revolutionary court on 16 June and was reportedly taken to Evin prison’s security wing.
Saide Lylaz, a business reporter for the newspaper Sarmayeh who has been very critical of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s policies, was arrested at his home in Tehran today. His wife said she did not know where he had been taken. Rohollah Shassavar, a journalist based in the city of Mashad, was also arrested today.
Reporters Without Borders learned of the arrests of journalists Ahmad Zeydabadi, Kivan Samimi Behbani, Abdolreza Tajik and Mahssa Amrabadi on 14 June. Two other journalists arrested on 14 June, Saeed Shariti and Hoda Sabaer, have since been released.
Since 13 June, foreign journalists have been prevented from freely covering the protests that began after the announcement of Ahmadinejad’s reelection victory. Some, including reporters working for France 3, RAI and Reuters, have been physically attacked. Others have been arrested and expelled. They include a Spanish TV crew working for RTVE, a Belgian crew working for RTBF, German crews working for ARD and ZDF and a Dutch crew working for Nederland 2.
Culture and Islamic guidance minister Mohammad Sfar Harandi issued an order on 16 June forbidding the foreign news media “to attend or cover demonstrations that have been organised without the interior ministry’s permission.”
“We are unwanted observers,” said Reporter Yolanda Alvarez of Spanish broadcaster RTVE after being expelled with all of her crew on 15 June. “They want to eliminate every kind of foreign media presence (…) The streets were totally taken over by anti-riot troops yesterday.”
Today, the Revolutionary Guard’s Organised Crime Surveillance Centre issued a written directive to the editors of websites ordering them to suppress “content inviting the population to riot and spreading threats and rumours.” It said there had been “several cases of websites and personal blogs posting articles inciting disturbance of public order and inviting the population to rebel.”
The directive continued: “These sites, created with the help of American and Canadian companies, receive the support of media that are protected by the American and British security services such as the BBC, Radio Farda (Free Europe) and Radio Zamaneh.” It added that the Surveillance Centre would make important revelations in the coming days about these “destructive” networks.
The Iranian authorities continue to demonize the foreign media, especially the western media, accusing them of being “the spokesmen of the rioters.” A foreign ministry press release today referred to them as “enemies” and warned that they would soon be “checkmated.”
France 24 interview with an Iranian observer: