(cartoon by Touka Neyestani)
In a letter to President Hassan Rouhani, 135 Iranian reporters, editors and media workers from inside and outside Iran urged the president not to insult them by lying about the persecution of journalists in Iran.
The letter, published in Persian on IranWire, criticized Rouhani for recent comments he made during an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour. During the interview, which took place while Rouhani was in the country to attend a UN General Assembly meeting, Amanpour asked the president to comment on the case of Jason Rezaian, the jailed Washington Post journalist. "I really don't believe the fact at all,” he said. “I do not believe that an individual would be detained or put in prison for being a journalist.”
Technically, Rouhani is right, but the reality is somewhat different. Most of those in prison are not charged with activities related to journalism. Instead, it’s “endangering the security of the nation,” “spreading propaganda,” “insulting the Supreme Leader”. In some cases, journalists are held on charges of “promoting corruption” or “prostitution”.
According to research conducted by IranWire, there are 65 professional and citizen journalists in prison in Iran. All of them were arrested because of their reporting. Since the disputed presidential election in 2009, almost 300 journalists have been arrested. Iran has the highest number of women journalists in prison, and hundreds of Iranian journalists are forced to live in exile.
In their letter to Rouhani, which to date has 135 signatories, journalists asked Rouhani to honor his election promises: greater freedom for journalists, and a safer and more secure working environment. The letter is published in English below.
Plus: Journalism is not a Crime, a database of Iranian journalists who have been targeted by the Iranian government
President Hassan Rouhani of Iran:
When you came to power in June 2013, you promised that you would create a more secure working environment for journalists and the media in our country.
Once again, in February 2014, you reminded the citizens of Iran of your election promises, stating that journalists should be entitled to greater security while doing their jobs. You said that shutting down a newspaper is not the right way to warn those who may have infringed on the law.
We, the undersigned, hoped you would take serious and practical measures to fulfill your promises. Yet more than a year after resuming office, the demands and expectations of journalists have not been realized. In fact, in an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, you denied that there was anyone in jail in Iran for their work as a journalist.
You were once critical of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s administration and its habit of concealing and denying the truth. Your recent denial that a problem even exists echoes this sentiment, and remind us of its impact.
We, the undersigned journalists, believe that it is unethical, unprofessional and insulting to deny the fact that, today, many journalists remain in prison in Iran for doing their jobs. Moreover, a number of journalists have been imprisoned during your presidency.
In our country, security agents regularly imprison journalists, denying them their basic rights simply for carrying out their duty: to inform the public. As the head of the executive branch, and as the second highest official of the land, whose responsibility includes supervising the execution of the constitution by different branches of the government, it is your duty to improve the situation of Iranian journalists.
At the very least, we expect you to correct your false statement concerning imprisoned journalists in Iran. But we hope for more, and we ask you to fulfill your promises to create a more secure environment for journalists in our country.
... Payvand News - 10/03/14 ... --