Sunday, July 27, 2014

Press Freedom Advocacy Groups Voice Concern over Arrest of Journalists in Iran

Rabin Man Shakya

Iran used to have a vibrant press and used to be a country where press freedom, freedom of expression and human rights were guaranteed by the Iranian constitution, when Iran was a monarchy. Not any more, not after Iranian monarchy was toppled by the Ayatollahs and  Muslim fundamentalists in 1979.

Iran, today, is a theocracy-controlled nation which  does not care about the press freedom even a little bit. This is the nation where scores of journalists have been threatened, beaten, incarcerated, subjected to unfair trials. Not without reason, the Freedom House has declared Iran a "Not Free" country in terms press freedom and democratic values.

Whenever I confront some of the Iranian Americans here in Portland, Oregon, without beating around the bush and without mincing the words, they emphasize that religious  fundamentalism remains the cornerstone of Iran's governance and that, for right now, there is no scope for political and press freedom in Iran. Exit of hardliner Ahmadinejad and more liberal politico Rouhani taking centerstage in  Iranian political scenario has still not minimized the stubbornness and adamancy of the theocrats  in Iran, they say.

Meanwhile, according to news reports, The Washington Post's correspondent in Iran is believed to have been detained this week, the newspaper said on Thursday. The correspondent, Jason Rezaian, was reported to have been taken into custody Tuesday evening along with his wife, Yeganeh Salehi, also a journalist, and two other people. The Post's foreign editor, Douglas Jehl, said in a statement,"We are deeply troubled by this news," Mr Jehl said,"and are concerned for the welfare of Jason, Yeganeh and two others said to have been detained with them." (The New York Times, July 25, 2014).

In New York, the  Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), a press freedom advocacy group voiced concern over the arrest of journalists. CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour said:" We  call on Iranian authorities to immediately explain why Jason Rejaian, Yeganeh Salehi and two other journalists have been detained, and we call for their immediate release."

"Iran has a dismal record with regard to its treatment of imprisoned journalists. We hold the Iranian government responsible for the safety of these four," added Mansour.

Likewise, Reporters Without Borders (RWB) also condemned the arrest of journalists in Tehran. Reza Moini, the head of the RWB Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan desk said:"Arbitrary arrests, illegal summons,  for example, by intelligence officers of the Revolutionary Guards, are adaily reality for journalists in Iran. Media workers, particularly foreign journalists based in Tehran, are most often accused of spying. They are the victims of a policy of demonizing the foreign media, which is aggravated by the settling of scores among different groups engaged in a power struggle."

Iran ranks 173rd out of 180 countries in the World Press Freedom Index 2014 prepared by the Reporters Without Borders just followed by Vietnam, China, Somalia, Syria, Turkmenistan, North Korea and Eritrea. With 65 journalists and netizens in prison - five of them foreign nationals - Iran is one of the world's top five prisons for those working in news and information, said the Reporters Without Borders.

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