Reporters Without Borders voiced concern today about the increasing judicial harassment of Iranian journalists in the past several weeks, which has included prison sentences and summonses for interrogation.
A Tehran court sentenced Issa Sahakhiz, the editor of the newspapers Aftab and Akhbar Egtesadi, on 28 August to four years in prison and a five-year ban on working as a journalist. Emadoldin Baghi, the editor of the banned daily Jumhuriyat, was summoned the same day by the Tehran revolutionary prosecutor's office and questioned without his lawyer being present.
Saghi Baghernia, the editor of the business daily Asia, was sentenced to six months in prison by the Tehran supreme court on 19 August for "propaganda against the regime" in its 5 July 2003 issue, which included a photo of Maryam Rajavi, leader of the opposition People's Mujahideen. Baghernia is liable to be imprisoned at any moment. Her husband, the editor of the daily Iraj Jamshidi, was arrested and sentenced in July 2003 to a year in prison for the same reason.
"This judicial harassment shows how hard it is to work as a journalist in Iran," Reporters Without Borders said. "The authorities must stop hounding the media like this." The organisation also called for the release of journalist Mehrdad Qassemfar and cartoonist Mana Neyestani, who are both currently on a week's home leave from prison, where they have been for the past several months.
Launched in 2000 in Iran, Sahakhiz's monthly Aftab has been closed down for "insulting the Guide" and "publishing false information" in a series of articles criticising Iran's prisons and calling for reforms. Sahakhiz was previously arrested several times in 2003 and then freed on bail.
Baghi and his wife, Fatemeh Kamali, the editor of the banned monthly Jameh-e-no, are often summoned and interrogated by ministry of intelligence officials. Baghi received a three-prison sentence in 2000 for "attacking national security" and "disseminating false news." He was released in February 2003, but his passport has still not been returned to him.
Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei are both on the list of press freedom predators which Reporters Without Borders compiles each year.
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