Iran: Press crackdown continues

July 28, 1999

His Excellency Sayed Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
Guide to the Islamic Republic of Iran
c/o the Permanent Mission of Iran to the United Nations
622 Third Avenue
New York, NY 10017
fax: 212.867.7086

Your Excellency,

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), an international organization of journalists devoted to upholding press freedom worldwide, is writing to express its deep concern about the ongoing campaign to stifle the independent Iranian press. Four recent cases in particular have raised grave international concerns about the Iranian government's commitment to press freedom.

  • On July 7, 1999, the Iranian Majlis (parliament) gave preliminary approval to a new press law that among other things criminalizes the profession of journalism by making reporters personally liable for what they write. On July 20, police arrested Kazem Shokri, senior editor of the daily Sobh-e-Emrouz, for having authorized the publication of an article titled "Two parallel lines do not cross unless God wills it", which the authorities alleged was insulting to Islam. Shokri's arrest is the first case in which someone other than the managing director of a publication has been prosecuted for printing an article that displeased the authorities.

  • On July 25, the Special Court for Clergy found Mohammad Khoeinia, director of the recently banned Salam newspaper, guilty of defamation and spreading false information for having published an allegedly secret memorandum revealing government plans to crack down on the Iranian independent press

  • On July 26, Hussain Shariatmadari, managing director of the daily Kayhan, and Mohammad Mehdi Mazaheri, managing director of the daily Javan,were summoned before branch 1410 of the press court. Their offence was having published a letter to President Khatami signed by 24 senior commanders of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC). The letter warned that the country was descending into anarchy. According to the official Iranian News Agency (IRNA) Shariatmadari and Mazaheri offered both written and oral defenses to the charges. Shariatmadari is to attend an open trial session on August 2, 1999, where a seven-member jury will hear his case.
    CPJ views these recent developments as further attempts by government authorities to muzzle the independent press in Iran. We believe these actions violate the most fundamental norms of free expression as guaranteed by Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which grants journalists the right to "seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers."

    We urge Your Excellency to assume a leadership role in ensuring that all charges against these four journalists are dropped. We further urge Your Excellency to use your moral stature to ensure that Iran's practices are brought into accordance with international standards for a free press.

    Thank you for your attention to these important matters. We look forward to a reply at your earliest convenience.

    Sincerely,

    Ann K. Cooper
    Executive Director






    Join CPJ in Protesting Attacks on the Press in Iran

    Send a letter to:

    His Excellency Sayed Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
    Guide to the Islamic Republic of Iran
    c/o the Permanent Mission of Iran to the United Nations
    622 Third Avenue
    New York, NY 10017
    fax: 212.867.7086

July 28, 1999 12:00 AM ET |

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