Amnesty International tells Iran to free imprisoned journalists

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The human rights organization Amnesty International has requested that Iran free journalists imprisoned in the wake of violence which occurred after recent presidential elections in the country. The Iranian government maintains that it has only detained those that have played a role in influencing the recent instability.

Amnesty International candlestick, in Salisbury Cathedral
Image: Gunnar Bach Pedersen.

News media have reported that dozens of journalists have been arrested in Iran, according to Amnesty International there may be up to 30 journalists imprisoned in the country. Amnesty International refers to the imprisoned journalists as "prisoners of conscience."

Associated Press reported that reporters for foreign news media outlets have been barred from covering recent events from streets in Iran, and in addition multiple foreign journalists have been forced to leave the country. According to Amnesty International Iason Athanasiadis-Fowden, reporter for The Washington Times, was arrested on about June 19, and Maziar Bahari of Newsweek was arrested on June 21. On June 22, approximately 20 of the 25 employees for the Iran-based newspaper Kalameh Sabz were taken into custody. Kalameh Sabs was founded in 2009 by Mir Hossein Mousavi, the opposition candidate in the recent presidential election.

People have been detained for peacefully expressing their views.

—Jenny Leong

Jenny Leong, co-ordinator of Amnesty International in Australia, expressed concern to ABC Online about the well-being of the imprisoned journalists. "People have been detained for peacefully expressing their views and in the case of journalists it's even more shocking when they are prevented the ability to freely express themselves when it is precisely their job to be able to provide that information," said Leong.

Amnesty International stated that Etemad-e Melli newspaper editor Mohammad Ghochani was arrested and is located in a jail of the Ministry of Intelligence and National Security of Iran. Keyvan Samimi Behbehani, a member of the Center for Human Rights Defenders' Arbitrary Arrests Committee and editor of a banned periodical called Nameh, was taken into custody by Iranian officials at his home.

..the only message the authorities are sending is that they are seeking to hide the truth, both from their own citizens and the rest of the world.

Amnesty International statement

Deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa for Amnesty International, Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, said that without further information from the Iranian government, Amnesty International would be under the impression that authorities were attempting to quash freedom of speech. Sahraoui said that "Unless the authorities lift all unlawful restrictions on freedom of expression which includes the right of journalists to report on events and release all the journalists arrested, we can only assume they are trying to hide evidence of abuse and further silence any critical voice."

In an official release from Amnesty International put out Friday, the organization said that by their actions of imprisoning journalists, the Iranian authorities were sending a message that they were only interested in hiding information from the public. "It is shocking that journalists – whose job it is to provide information to others – are being detained, on top of all the other draconian measures the authorities have taken to restrict the free flow of information about what is really happening in Iran. Rather than trying to investigate alleged abuses, the only message the authorities are sending is that they are seeking to hide the truth, both from their own citizens and the rest of the world," read the statement.