March 12, 2003 - Updated on January 20, 2016

One journalist freed but two others sentenced to prison sentences

While Alireza Eshraghi has been freed on bail, after 53 days of imprisonment in an individual cell, two other journalists, Narghues Mohammadi and Ahmad Zeid-Abadi, have been sentenced respectively to twelve and thirteen months prison. Five other film specialised journalists remain imprisoned. 'Although we welcome the release of Mr Eshraghi, we feel it is unacceptable to demand such a high sum to release him. Not only does the judiciary imprison journalists in a totally arbitrary manner but, in addition, it causes financial difficulties to their families', said Robert Ménard, secretary-general of Reporters Without Borders. The organisation calls on the head of Iran's judiciary, Ayatollah Mahmoud Shahroudi, to immediately release nine journalists currently imprisoned. On 9 March, Alireza Eshraghi, a journalist at Hayat-é-No, was released on a bail of 25 million tomans (approximately 25,000 euros). He had been arrested on 12 January, shortly after Hayat-é-No was shut down after the publication of a caricature on 8 January. The latter represented a white-bearded old man, wearing a long black cloak, sitting on the ground with the thumb of a giant hand pressing on his head (and the caption 'Roosevelt' on the sleeve). This drawing was published in 1937 in an American newspaper to illustrate President Roosevelt's pressure on the US Supreme Court. The same day, Narghues Mohamadi, a journalist at Peyam Ajar, was sentenced to one year imprisonment for having granted interviews to medias during the imprisonment of her husband, Taghi Rahmani, a journalist at the weekly Omid-é-Zangan. On 4 November 2002, she had been summoned by the revolutionary court of Tehran for 'disturbing the public peace'. The journalist remains free but is apparently the subject of new court proceedings. On 10 March, Ahmad Zeid-Abadi, a journalist at the reformist newspaper Hamchahri and at the monthly Iran-é-Farda, was sentenced, on appeal, to thirteen months prison and a five year ban on any 'public and social activity', including journalism. He got eight months for 'propaganda against the regime' and five months for 'publishing false news'. On 17 April 2002, Ahmad Zeid-Abadi had been sentenced by the press court to twenty-three months prison and a five year ban on any public and social activity for 'propaganda against the Islamic regime and its institutions'. The court accused him in particular of 'his provocative speeches threatening national security'. 'If the convict does not answer the summons to go to prison, he will be arrested', said Mr Tashakori, deputy State prosecutor in Tehran. Between 26 and 28 February, Kambiz Kaheh, a journalist at the film magazines, Cinema-Jahan, Majaleh Film, Donyai Tassvir, and Cinema-é-No, Said Mostaghasi, a journalist at Haftehnameh Cinema, Mohammad Abdi, chief editor of the monthly Honar Haftom, and Amir Ezati, of Mahnameh Film, were arrested at home. At the same time, Sepideh Abroaviz, Narghess Vishkai, Assal Samari, Yasamin Soufi and Mehrnaz Téhérani, all film press journalists, were interrogated by Adareh Amaken, a section of the Tehran police customarily tasked with 'moral' type offences and considered as close to the intelligence services. The Tehran judiciary accuses in particular these film specialised journalists with 'criticising the regime's cultural policy' and 'relations with Siamak Pourzand', a journalist sentenced to eleven years prison for 'activity prejudicial to State security because of his ties with the monarchists and counter-revolutionaries'. Also, Mr Galifab, director of security forces in Tehran, said he found many 'immoral CDs' at the homes of the arrested journalists. Lastly, Abbas Abdi, director of the opinion-poll institute Ayandeh, former chief editor of the daily Salam and a member of the editorial staff of many reformist newspapers, who is imprisoned in an individual cell, started a hunger strike at the end of February. On 4 November 2002, he had been arrested at home. Ayandeh was accused of having 'received money from the American opinion-poll institute Gallup, or from a foreign embassy.' This arrest came after IRNA, the official Iranian press agency, had circulated on 22 September an opinion poll (carried out by the national public opinion studies company and Ayandeh) which showed that '74.4% of Iranians favoured a resumption of relations with Washington'.