Reporters Without Borders called today for the immediate release of Abbas Kakavand, who was imprisoned on 7 June for allegedly disseminating "false news" in articles he wrote for the website gooya.com since February after leaving the conservative newspaper Ressalat. His articles criticised corruption and the political payments received by many conservative leaders.
The organisation described the jailing of Kakavand as "flagrant evidence of the systematic violation of press freedom in Iran," and pointed out that "it came just a few days before talks on human rights are scheduled to get under way between the Islamic Republic and the European Union".
"The EU has apparently not yet realised that the situation of free expression has got much worse since this so-called "constructive dialogue" with Iran began more than three years ago", Reporters Without Borders said.
"No journalist is protected from repression, not even those who have worked for one of the most pro-government newspapers. Farsi-language websites, which play a major role in disseminating news, are being monitored more and more closely. The Islamic Republic continues to claim that it adheres to international human rights standards, in which case it should therefore immediately release the 13 journalists currently imprisoned in Iran," Reporters Without Borders said.
Charges were brought against Kakavand at a hearing of the Tehran criminal court on 7 June. The court ordered his immediate imprisonment when he was unable to pay bail of 100 million rials (about 11,600 euros). His articles criticising political corruption had appeared in both reformist dailies and on gooya.com, a very popular site which the authorities blocked along with other reformist sites for several days before the February legislative elections.
He was first summoned by the judicial authorities on 3 April. On the day of his 7 June court hearing, gooya.com published an interview in which he accused most of the conservative political leaders and members of the overwhelmingly conservative parliament of "stealing from the tills of the Imam Khomeini foundation" to finance their electoral campaigns. Hadad Adel, the currently parliamentary speaker, was named.
The Iranian regime censors thousands of websites considered to be "un-Islamic." It also harasses and jails online journalists. But the Internet is flourishing in Iran, online political debates are impassioned and weblogs are spreading fast.
On 22 June, Reporters Without Borders will bring out a report on the "The Internet under Surveillance" which will detail the methods used by the Iranian authorities to control online content. The full report will be available on the Reporters Without Borders website, www.internet.rsf.org.
Now with a total of 13 journalists detained, Iran is the biggest prison for the press in the Middle East
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