Reporters Without Borders today deplored a series of new negative developments for press freedom that accompanied the arrival of the Iranian New Year in March.
On returning from their New Year vacation, 80 conservative parliamentarians called for reformist journalist Massih Alinejad to be banned from entering parliament. The president of the Association of Iranian journalists, Ali Mazroi, was banned from leaving the country. And officials closed two magazines.
"Iranian journalists are no longer allowed to express themselves outside the country any more than inside," the press freedom organization said. "The conservatives, who dominate the country's religious, political and judicial institutions, are doing everything possible to silence dissent. We call on the parliamentary speaker to restore Alinejad's rights since he has committed no crime."
Condemning the closure of the magazines Jameh Nou and Karnameh, Reporters Without Borders called on the Ministry of Islamic Guidance to allow them to resume publishing. The organization also stressed that the Iranian authorities should not prevent a journalist from travelling abroad or participating in international conferences. Mazroi should be able to go abroad without being harassed, the organization said, calling for the immediate return of his passport.
It was the publication of their pay slips that prompted the parliamentarians to turn on Alinejad. A parliamentary reporter for the reformist daily Hambasteghi and the news agency ILNA, he was banned from parliament on 4 April. For much of the past year, he had been the target of a smear campaign by parliamentarians who criticized his dress as well as "his rudeness and impoliteness."
Conservative members of parliament accused him of stealing their pay slips from their mail pigeonholes although, in fact, it was a reformist MP who showed Alinejad his pay slip. Since the ban, Alinejad has won the support of several newspapers, which have announced that they will not report any parliamentary news for a day in protest. The Iranian lawyer and Nobel peace laureate Shirin Ebadi has said she will defend Alinejad although no legal initiative has yet been taken.
Mazroi was deprived of his passport and prevented from leaving the country on 6 April as he was about to fly to Denmark to attend a meeting of the International Federation of Journalists. The airport police did not explain their action. Last year, Mazroi wrote several open letters condemning the arrest of his son, Hanif Mazroi, who has since been released.
The monthly Karnameh was closed by the Ministry of Islamic Guidance on 7 April for publishing news and poems deemed "immoral." The ministry said it intended to prosecute the magazine.
Jameh Nou, a magazine targeted at intellectuals, was banned by the Ministry of Islamic Guidance a few days before the Iranian New Year, on 8 March. The grounds given by the Press Control Commission for the ban was the fact that the magazine was not coming out regularly. Jameh Nou has called for political and religious reforms. Its editor, Ftameh Kamli Sara, is the wife of independent journalist Emadoldin Baghi, who spent several years in prison, above all for articles advocating free expression and a modern vision of Iran.
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