Reporters Without Borders welcomes the release of two women's rights activists who had been held for more than a month in Tehran's Evin prison for exercising their right to online free expression. Maryam Hosseinkhah and Jelveh Javaheri were freed on bail yesterday after the authorities reduced the large amounts of bail being demanded for their release.
Hosseinkhah and Javaheri right after their release
"This is a relief," the press freedom organisation said. "Hosseinkhah and Javaheri were imprisoned for no other reason than the views they expressed. They are innocent and we would like to think their release marks an end to the repression of women's rights activists. The authorities have been waging an all-out policy to deter people from expressing themselves freely on the Internet. Around 30 cyber-dissidents have been arrested in the past year. We urge the authorities to drop the charges brought against them."
Hosseinkhah, 32, is a reporter for the feminist websites Zanestan and WeChange, to which Javaheri, 30, is a regular contributor. They are charged with "disturbing public opinion," "publishing false news" and "publicity against the Islamic Republic" because of articles they wrote demanding respect for women's rights under the constitution.
Hosseinkhah was arrested on 18 November, while Javaheri was arrested on 1 December. They were freed after the amount of bail requested was reduced to 5 million tomans (4,500 euros) from the 95,000 euros which a Tehran revolutionary court had originally demanded for Hosseinkhah and the 50,000 euros demanded for Javaheri.
Iran cracked down harder on the Internet in 2007. Reza Validazeh, 22, the editor of Baznegar, a website which for the past year has been publishing a daily review of Iranian blogs, was arrested on 27 November because of an article commenting ironically on the resources allocated to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's security. On 16 December, the interior ministry closed 24 Tehran Internet cafés and arrested around 20 people for "immoral behaviour."
Websites offering news about Iran have had to register with the culture ministry for the past year. The council of ministers has said that insulting Islam or other monotheistic religions, spreading separatist ideologies, publishing false news or publishing news that invades privacy are all grounds for declaring a website illegal.
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