Opinion article by Issa Saharkhiz (source: Rooz Online)
It is probably true that Iranian hardliners are fearful of those who disseminate news, media activists, journalists and reports. Their outlook towards them is similar to what the archaic Americans believed in: The only good Indian is a dead Indian (words attributed to American General Sheridan in 1869).
This is why among political-ideological prisoners in Iran, journalists outnumber other groups. Had the Bahais not been attached as a minority group, journalists would have been the largest group in any category.
Perhaps it was because Behzad Nabavi too believed in this when he told me upon his release from prison that his recommendation that the best course of action for us was to “remain shut up.” This is the message that he had been sending to those who visited him during his incarceration. He had also made reference to a letter that he had sent to Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani in which he had advised the newly elected leader not to place the release of prisoners as his top goal but to focus on resolving the nuclear energy issue and the solution of the economic problems of the country.
I too as a prisoner began to send the same message to those who visited me which was that political prisoners, including journalists and web bloggers imprisoned in Evin Prison and Rajaishahr Prison in Karaj had a similar message in that they do not expect the new administration to put their release on top of its agenda. I of course reassured Nabavi that we had all shut up and were not speaking and had allowed censorship and self-censorship to make the final calls in the media of the country!
What I did not say was that the totalitarians ruling Iran viewed anybody and all of those involved in media activities in the same light that the KKK viewed American Indians and the blacks in their country. I also did not say that most journalists and web bloggers were the victims of judge Moghise and his heavy prison sentences. This is the same judge who issued death sentences in the 1980s for completely different situations and who in 2009 ruled that the supporters of the Green Movement to be hanged.
And now we read news reports that on Saturday, “security forces entered the offices of the TejarateFarda weekly (Trade of Tomorrow) and arrested Saba Azarpeik, and transferred her to an undisclosed location. At the same time we hear the astonishing news that judge Moghise had sentenced eight users of Facebook to 123 years of prison!
While the details of this arrest and sentences have not yet been published, we know that last year that it was the Revolutionary Guards’ Cyber Unit that arrested the users of social media in Iran. These individuals are close to those who had caused the death of Satar Beheshti earlier.
To this scandal and disaster one must add the recent ruling of a judge in the province of Fars. This one has summoned Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg to appear in court, even though he seems to have denied his initial order under pressure.
He seems to have heard that senior judiciary officials had been challenging the president and worked to disgrace him internationally and domestically, allowing him to jump on the bandwagon, but he seems to have lost his sense of own position within the regime. He may be the victim of his own ignorance about the media and the political games going on in the capital of his country. He has gained a reputation for his ignorance partly because he is said to have asked a prisoner once why he had hidden his emails in his laptop.
Perhaps the reason for these new violations and transgressions is the fact that we had sent a message to Rouhani not to put our plight and freedom on the top of his agenda and instead focus on advancing the rights of the citizens and its charter and focus on the issues of water and bread for the residents of cities and plains and cows for those in the country.
Under these circumstances, the hardliners and authoritarians can freely break any law and transgress into any area including offices of weeklies or the houses of journalists. Perhaps it is because of our recommendations that the cyber police feels it is entitled to enter the cyber world and the private sphere of individuals and create lawsuits based on their whispers and personal writings, and ultimately issue sentences against them; sentences on such pretexts as engaging in “activities against national security,” “insulting the supreme leader,” “propaganda against the regime,” “insulting the Islamic doctrines,” etc.
The result of such views and actions is evident: 123 years of prison for eight online users and a 20-year prison sentence for Roya Saberinejad Nowbakht and Amir Golestani, Masoud Ghasemkhani, and Fariborz Kardarfar who received respectively 19 years, 91 years 18 years and 91 years of prison sentences.
So while we agree to shut up because of larger issues and out of prudence and consequently accept censorship and self-censorship, we still continue and will continue to write and talk about the imprisonment of the leaders of the Green Movement, visit the relatives of political-ideological prisoners, criticize the regime within the allowable confines, sing protest songs and poems and write about the events of the 2009 presidential elections. And while this is our way of life and outlook, totalitarians can and will continue to view us in the same manner that “the best reporter is a dead reporter.”
... Payvand News - 06/09/14 ... --