Amid continuing clamour about the death of photojournalist Zahra Kazemi while in custody at the start of July, Reporters Without Borders today voiced concern about the imprisonment of a total of 21 journalists in very harsh conditions in Iran, many of them in a wave of arrests in the past few weeks.
Secretary-general Robert Ménard said at least 14 journalists have been arrested in the space of a month, and in most cases the families have received no word about those detained. "Those lucky enough to have been freed have talked of very harsh conditions of detention, psychological pressure and mistreatment," Ménard said.
He stressed that the organisation is very worried about the fact that half of the detained journalists are being held by aides of Tehran state prosecutor Said Mortazavi and by revolutionary guards in the same centre where Kazemi, a photographer with Canadian and Iranian citizenship, received the blows to the head that caused her death.
The latest to be detained include Abolgasem Golbaf, editor of the monthly Gozarech, who was arrested on 20 July for "propaganda against the regime and publishing incorrect information." Three members of the newspaper's staff, illustrator Arash Noporchian and journalists Mohammad-Amin Golbaf and Nader Karimi, were also arrested on 26 July and were then freed two or three days later.
Hossein Bastani, Vahid Pour-Ostad and Said Razavi Faghi, three members of the editorial staff of the reformist daily Yass-e No, and Chahram Mohamadi-Nia, editor of the weekly Vaght, were summoned for questioning by the Tehran public prosecutor on 11 and 12 July and were then imprisoned. Yass-e No had published a note on 10 July explaining that it had prepared a detailed report on the 9 July demonstrations but had received orders from the intelligence ministry not to publish it.
Accused of publishing "an improper photo and article," Mohamadi-Nia was jailed after failing to pay bail of 100 million rials (about 11,000 euros). Bastani, Pour-Ostad and Mohamadi-Nia were released between 16 and 20 July, but Faghi is still being held, as is freelance journalist Arash Salehi, who was arrested on a Tehran street.
Iraj Jamshidi, the editor of the economic daily Asia, was arrested together with his wife, managing editor Saghi Baghernia, on 6 July for "publicity against the regime" after publishing a photograph of People's Mujahideen leader Maryam Rajavi the day before. Baghernia was released on bail the following day, but Jamshidi was put in Evin prison in Tehran and was then moved to an undisclosed location. Ismail Jamshidi, editor of Gardon (a monthly that has been closed by the authorities), was detained 7 July. Since then, there has been no word of him.
Ensafali Hedayat, a journalist in Salam, was released on 12 July after spending 27 days in solitary confinement in the main prison of Tabriz. In a letter to President Mohammad Khatami, he said he was beaten by senior police officials while detained. He said he was lucky not to have suffered the same fate as Zahra Kazemi.
The relatives and lawyers of four journalists thought to be detained by revolutionary guards - Taghi Rahmani of Omid-e-Zangan (detained on 14 June), Reza Alijani of Iran-e-Farda (detained on 14 June), Hoda Saber of Iran-e-Farda (detained on 14 June) and freelancer Amir Teirani (detained on 16 June) - have received no word of them since the moment of their detention.
Abas Abdi of Salam (who was arrested on 4 November 2002 and is being held in solitary confinement) Ali-Reza Jabari of Adineh (arrested on 17 March) and Siamak Pourzand (arrested on 30 March) described the illnesses, mistreatment and psychological pressure to which they are subjected in letters recently published in the Iranian press.
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