Iran News ...


10/16/09

Iran: Concern about exodus of journalists, as regime steps up suppression of news

Source: Reporters Without Borders

Reporters Without Borders keeps on getting requests for help from terrified Iranian journalists who have been forced to flee their country after receiving summonses from the authorities. With 32 of their colleagues now detained in Iran and with a president and a Supreme Leader bent on suppressing all criticism, around 30 journalists have fled since last June's disputed elections.

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"This is the biggest exodus of journalists since the 1979 revolution," Reporters Without Borders said. "Describing news media as 'means used in an attempt to overthrow the state', the regime is ridding itself of undesired witnesses by jailing them or getting them to flee. Photographers, cameramen, bloggers and reporters for newspapers that have been closed down - all are being accused of 'acting against national security'."

The press freedom organisation added: "The luckiest are able to get to Europe or the United States, but most have to expose themselves to great danger by fleeing with the help of smugglers. In the countries where they seek refuge - Turkey, Iraq or even Afghanistan - they are exposed to more harassment and police surveillance. The provisions of the 1951 Geneva Convention are ill-suited for such an emergency. European countries must open their doors to these journalists and support free expression in Iran."

As well as the human tragedy, the exodus of Iranian journalists increases the risk of a complete news blackout in Iran. News and information have become synonymous with repression. One Iranian journalist had to flee because she told the BBC about Neda Aghasoltani, the young woman who in death became a symbol of opposition to the regime. Another journalist, a photographer, fled after one of his photos was used prominently by the international media. A third had to leave after talking about the situation of detainees in his blog.

A voice for those who have been silenced

It is vital to support initiatives being undertaken by Iranian reporters and photographers with a view to expressing their views and putting out information. Reporters Without Borders has helped launch a website, The Iranian Journalists, which is a multimedia platform for disseminating information about the media and journalists, and for collecting articles, photos and videos provided by journalists themselves.

Reporters Without Borders, which published a Handbook for Exiled Journalists last June, has been in repeated contact with the UN refugee agency and with western embassies about the plight of these journalists. It is also providing urgent financial assistance to these men and women who are paying a high price for their determination to do their job.

Ali Zare, a photographer who was arrested and tortured by militiamen and police for 48 hours in a location that he was unable to identify, has described to Reporters Without Borders how detainees are mistreated. See his story on our website.

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