Reporters Without Borders today voiced strong support for the Iranian journalists who yesterday began a series of daily demonstrations outside the parliament building in protest against harassment and other press freedom violations, especially as regards press coverage of parliament.
"We back this protest which has been prompted by the unacceptably violent attitude of parliamentary representative Mehdi Kouchakzadeh towards Iraj Jamshidi of the daily newspaper Shargh and his insulting comments about journalists," the press freedom organization said.
"We also call for the readmission to parliament of journalist Massih Alinejad, who has been barred for more than a month, and we urge parliamentarians to put an end to harassment of the press, which should be able to cover the legislature's activities freely," the organization said.
Reporters Without Borders added : "Parliament seems bent on poisoning the already tense relations with the national news media and is behaving in an increasingly outlandish fashion. The reaction of speaker Hadad Adel in trying to portray his colleagues as victims is utterly hypocritical. We again call on the European Union to take stock of the gravity of the situation and to note that, just a few weeks before presidential elections, Iran continues to be the Middle East's biggest prison for the press."
Irked by an article in Shargh about an altercation between himself and another parliamentarian, Kouchakzadeh tried to attack Jamshidi on 16 May and it was only because more than a dozen other parliamentarians intervened that Jamshidi was not hurt. Launched in 2003, Shargh (which means "Orient" in Farsi) is known for being outspoken and employs journalists who used to work for newspapers that are now banned.
The official Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) quoted Kouchakzadeh as saying, after he had been pulled off Jamshidi, "You are a bunch of liars who don't believe in anything and lie for a loaf of bread."
Around 100 journalists gathered outside the parliament building yesterday to protest and to demand apologies. They said they would continue to demonstrate every day for an indefinite period to demand the release of all imprisoned journalists and the reopening of newspapers that have been closed by the authorities.
Alinejad, who works for the pro-reform daily Hambasteghi and Iran's Labor News Agency, (ILNA), was banned from parliament on 4 April after revealing how much members of parliament are paid. Conservative members accused him of stealing pay slips from their pigeonholes, but in fact it was a pro-reform parliamentarian who showed him his own pay slip.
He has been the target of a smear campaign by parliamentarians, who have criticized the way he dresses and his "rudeness."
... Payvand News - 5/24/05 ... --