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Iranian Journalists Association holds open tribune to protest to banning, closure process of press

7/27/04 Tehran, July 26, IRNA -- The Iranian Journalists Association (IJA), held and Open tribune in Tehran on Monday to voice the journalists' objection to the continuing process of banning and closure of the press in Iran.

Among the prominent figures present at the gathering, there were the Culture and Islamic Guidance Ministry's Press Deputy Mohammad Sohofi and that ministry's Local Press Deputy Saeid Taqipur, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi, as well as a large number of the Iranian Bar Association members and human rights activists.

There were also over one hundred journalists present at the meeting, mainly the staff members of the recently banned Vaqaye-e Ettefaqiyyeh daily, who voiced their objection to the closure of their pro-reforms newspaper.

The head of the IJA, Rajab-Ali Mazrou'i said at the Open Tribune, "The current status of the press in Iran is such that we can positively claim that professional independence of the Iranian journalists is totally annihilated today."

Referring to the article used by the prosecutor's office to shut down Waqaye-e Ettefaqiyyeh, Mazrou'i said, "If that is the case, no journalist is ever permitted to work in any daily other than the one he is busy at, or to choose the job that pleases him, and furthermore, after the closure of a daily, that is a very common event in Iran today, he or she must chose a job other than journalism."

The IJA head said, "The recent events have proved that the Iranian journalists enjoy no job security any longer, despite the fact that we all know the closure of so many dailies and periodicals that has led to unemployment of thousands of journalists has absolutely no benefit for any social class in Iran."

Member of the Central Committee of the Council for Defense of Freedom of the Press (CDFP), Issa Saharkhiz, too, said, "Tough working conditions, lack of security, and small number of remaining dailies in Iran, have all resulted in turning the Iranian journalists into conservatives."

He added, "The closure process of the press in Iran has to come to an end one day and the Iranian journalists need to start a collective move in the framework of the country's laws to secure their own interests."

Pointing out the fact that a journalist defends the rights and interests of all classes in a society, Saharkhiz expressed surprise at the Iranian journalist are today incapable of securing their own interests.

He concluded, "The journalists are treated in a way in Iran today that they are convinced they need to kiss this career farewell, sooner, rather than later, or to chose to work for non-political press."

Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi, too, said at the IJA Open Tribune, "We are living at a time when observing the rules of democracy is an unescapable need."

She added, "Freedom of expression is the main pillar of democracy and we cannot claim to have a democratic society with so many closed dailies and periodicals, so many journalists turned jobless, and such a heavy censorship effective in news dissemination."

Ebadi said, "If we want to have a democratic society, we need to respect the freedom of expression, that is a freedom in need of legal recognition at initial stage, and in need of being practically respected by the executive officials in effect."

Lawyer Mohammad Seifzadeh too, argued that the general courts are not allowed to survey journalist and political violations of the laws according to Article 159 of the Constitution, and special courts with special juries are to be held for surveying such crimes.

He reiterated, "The reasoning behind that emphasis is that the general courts are often run by the political systems' agents, and not by independent judges."

Seifzadeh claimed, "The groups that have turned the situation of the Iranian press to its current miserable status, at the beginning used to resort to a very old law related to hooligans, and is today seeking other weak pretexts."

Head of the CDFP, Hojjatoleslam Mohsen Kadivar, too, said at the Open Tribune, "There is a two-way relation between the extent of power of a political systems and freedom of the press."

Kadivar added, "The more lenience a political system observes in dealing with the press, it is considered stronger, while the less capable a regime would be in allowing the free voicing of criticism, the less is evaluated its strength."

He said, "Writing is a holy career in Islam since God has sworn to the pen in Holy Qur'an, and our journalists have proved they have not sold their pens."

Some of the journalists participating at the meeting, too, expressed their viewpoints and were generally agreed on the point that joint efforts are needed to secure the denied rights of the Iranian journalists.

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