Reporters Without Borders learned today of the arrests of three more journalists, bringing to 16 the number detained in a renewed crackdown on media personnel in Tehran that began a week ago.
In all, a total of 42 journalists and 20 netizens are now detained in Iran, which makes it one of the world’s biggest prisons for news providers.
The two latest detainees are Rihaneh Tabtabai, a journalist with the daily Bahar, who was arrested yesterday, and Ali Dehghan, Bahar’s business editor, who was arrested the day before.
The third newly-reported arrest is that of Fatemeh Sagharchi of the news website Jamaran, who was detained on 26 January “in connection with the current crackdown on journalists,” her lawyer, Mahmoud Alizadeh, said. Like Tabtabai and Dehghan, she was arrested by plain-clothes intelligence officers.
In a statement on 29 January, the intelligence ministry accused the journalists of belonging to “a media network linked to the West, created by the BBC and managed in cooperation with several western governments.”
The statement added that more journalists “could be arrested or summoned in the coming days as the investigation proceeds, or that some detainees could be released.”
“Thirty-four years to the day after the Islamic Republic’s founder, Ayatollah Rooholah Khomeini, returned from France and contrary to his promises to respect fundamental freedoms, Iran is one of the world’s biggest prisons for news providers, with a total of 62 journalists and netizens detained,” Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Christophe Deloire said.
“Khomeini’s successor as Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, has stepped up the war against journalists and the demonization of the foreign press and new media. Iranian journalists and intellectuals have for 34 years been branded as spies in the pay of western governments, charges never proved in a fair trial as that does not exist in Iran. The justice system is just a tool controlled by the Supreme Leader, who appoints its chief and uses it to crush hopes for more freedom.
“This new wave of arrests is sending a very clear signal to those journalists who do not content themselves with repeating the regime’s propaganda. The authorities are making it clear that, in advance of next June’s elections, they are preparing to suppress any attempt by the media to cover any protests that might arise and the crackdown on protests.”
It is ironic now to listen to what Ayatolloh Khomeini said on his arrival in Iran on 1 February 1979 (12 Bahman, in the Iranian calendar). He said: “The people are sovereign and master of their fate, and their choice must be respected. But by what right do those who voted determine the fate and future of subsequent generations, 50 years later. The fate of each generation is in its hands.”
List of journalists arrested since 26 January:
- Milad Fadai Asl (news agency ILNA)
- Soliman Mohammadi (newspaper Bahar)
- Fatemeh Sagharchi (news website Jamaran)
27 January (“Black Sunday”)
- Sasan Aghai (newspaper Etemad)
- Nasrin Takhayori (newspaper Etemad)
- Javad Daliri (newspaper Etemad)
- Emily Amrai (newspaper Arman)
- Nargus Jodaki (newspaper Arman)
- Saba Azarpik (freelancer for various reformist newspapers)
- Porya Alami (newspaper Shargh)
- Pejman Mousavi (newspaper Bahar)
- Akbar Montajabi (weekly Aseman)
- Keyvan Mehregan (freelancer for various reformist newspapers)
- Hossein Yaghchi (weekly Aseman)
- Ali Dehghan (newspaper Bahar)
- Rihaneh Tabtabai (newspaper Bahar)