Fereshteh Ghazi, an Iranian journalist and human rights activist, reports on the threats and challenges Iranian journalists face on a daily basis:
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While a large number of prominent Iranian journalists have been arrested since the June 12 presidential election, other journalists and independent newspapers are under heavy pressure as well and are constantly summoned by various security and military agencies. In interview with Rooz, several of these journalists described the increasing pressures facing them that are unprecedented in the history of Iranian journalism.
Shamsolvaezeen, Forbidden from Interviews
Journalist and chief editor of several Iranian newspapers that remain banned, Mashallah Shamsolvaezeen was summoned to the Ministry of Intelligence last week. There, he was told that he does not have the right to speak with any media. He confirmed his summons and complained to Rooz, “No legal basis or reason exists for my interview ban.”
He explained that he was asked to play his role in defusing the crisis by not granting interviews and disseminating information.
“So I will not grant interviews based on the commitment that was extracted from me, but the country’s situation will not be calmed with this or that person’s silence. On the contrary, with the silence of journalists and intellectuals, the road will be paved for military officers, or someone else to write letters to the hidden Imam, and for others to attack people with tear gas,” he said.
Threatened by Revolutionary Guards and Security Police
The ban on granting interviews is not the only problem facing Iranian journalists, whose only job is to disseminate information. Following the election coup, most journalists have been summoned by the various security and military organs, including the Ministry of Intelligence, Tehran Prosecutor’s Office, and the newly-formed Security Police and threatened not to cross the red lines and to operate within the regime’s permitted framework. Journalists who have been summoned to the Security Police say that they were put under heavy pressure to write articles and reports in support of the coup government and against the opposition. One journalist told Rooz, “Journalists are put under pressure to connect popular gatherings to foreigners, criticize Mir-Hossein Mousavi, seyyed Mohammad Khatami and Mehdi Karoubi and to frame their statements and positions to be in line with agitators.”
Meanwhile, journalists who have been freed are also subjected to regular summons issued by the Security Police, interrogated and threatened not to release information about their time in detention. They are also told that they are under heavy surveillance. Despite these problems, Iranian journalists have so far refrained from supporting the coup government and writing reports and articles against reformist figures and popular gatherings.
Badrosadat Mofidi, head of the Association of Iranian Journalists, is among the group of journalists who was summoned to the Ministry of Intelligence last week. Mrs. Mofidi was treated violently and in a repulsive manner. She told Rooz about her encounter and repeated threats against journalists, “Journalists who are summoned and threatened are not willing to speak about their experiences because they are under heavy pressure against this. In cases where they speak with the Association of Iranian Journalists, they insist for their case not be publicized due to fear.”
Mofidi refers to unemployment as another major problem gripping the society of Iranian journalists, noting, “Journalists who work with more-or-less independent publications are constantly under pressure, summoned or interrogated.”
The head of the Association of Iranian Journalists describes the presence of officers from the Prosecutor’s Office as well as the Ministry of Culture at press rooms prior to the publication of newspapers for censorship purposes, adding, “We have seen all kinds of restrictions over the years, but this is a new kind.”
Principalist Journalists Also Under Pressure
Reza Moeini, head of the Reporters Without Borders’ Iran Bureau also spoke to Rooz about the repeated summoning of Iranian journalists: “Those who have not been arrested, as well as those who are released on bail, are constantly summoned, and the possibility of arrest is always hanging over their heads like a sword.”
Noting that Principalist journalists (journalists who belong to the conservative camp) also are under pressure, Moeini says, “The resignation and dismissal of a large number of journalists from media outlets close to the administration points to the extent of the pressure exerted on journalists. They are also under pressure and cannot work freely.”
Commenting on the detention of a large number of journalists, Moeini says, “We know of many cases but we also don’t know about many other cases. We are certain that the number of detainees is far higher than the number on our list.”
He adds, “What has taken place since June 12, whether considering the arrests or the extent of control and pressure on journalists, is unprecedented.”