8 October 1998
Call for release of Iranian journalists
(HRW/IFEX) - In an open letter sent on 7 October 1998 to the Head of the
Judiciary in Iran, Ayatollah Yazdi, Human Rights Watch called for the
immediate and unconditional release of four journalists from the daily
newspaper "Tous", who were arrested on the order of a Revolutionary Court on
**Updates IFEX alerts of 23 September, 20 September, 16 September, 6 August,
4 August, 21 July, 15 June, and 11 June 1998**
"We fear that the real motive in jailing the four journalists is to punish
them for their activities as journalists, and to intimidate other
independent-minded journalists in Iran," said Hanny Megally, the Executive
Director of the Middle East and North Africa Division.
The four journalists are: Hamid Reza Jalei-Pour and Mohammad Javadi-Hessar,
both managers of the newspaper, Mashallah Shamsol-va-Ezine, an editor, and
Ebrahim Nabavi, a staff writer at "Tous".
On 15 September, the Leader Ayatollah Khamene'i threatened to use
extra-legal force to silence independent newspapers. On the next day, the
newspaper "Tous", which had gained a reputation and a wide readership among
Iranians for its championing of reform, was ordered closed. During the
last few months, several newspapers and magazines have been closed. These
include: "Gozaresh-e Rouz", "Khanneh", "Jameh", "Tous", "Rah-e No",
"Tavana", "Jameh Salem", and "Asr-e Ma".
What follows is a copy of the Human Rights Watch letter.
Similar appeals can be sent to:
H.E. Ayatollah Mohammed Yazdi
Head of the Judiciary
Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran
Fax care of the Iranian diplomatic representative to your country or:
The Iranian mission to the United Nations
New York, NY
Fax: +1 212 867 7086
Human Rights Watch is writing this open letter to express its deep concern
about the arrest and incommunicado detention in solitary confinement since
16 September of four staff members from "Tous", a daily newspaper, which was
banned the same day. We fear that the real motive in jailing and
prosecuting the four journalists is to punish them for their activities as
journalists and writers, and to intimidate other independent-minded
journalists in Iran.
Hamid Reza Jalei-Pour and Mohammad Javadi-Hessar, both managers, Mashallah
Shamsol-va-Ezine, an editor, and Ebrahim Nabavi, a staff writer with "Tous"
were arrested on the order of the Revolutionary Court for publishing
articles "against security and general interests." Human Rights Watch fears
that the detainees are being ill-treated in order to pressure them to sign
false confessions. The detainees have been held incommunicado since their
arrests with no access to their lawyers and their families. Only
Jalei-Pour's mother was permitted to visit him in Tehran on 3 October.
The Revolutionary Court's order arresting these journalists appears to be in
direct violation of Iran's constitution which states that any offenses
relating to the press should be brought before a designated press court.
The Iranian press law stipulates that such courts should hold their
proceedings in public and in the presence of a jury.
The arbitrary detention of these four journalists is a violation of Iran's
obligation under international law. Article 9(1) of the International
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Iran is a party,
requires states to ensure that:
Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person. No one shall be
subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention. No one shall be deprived of his
liberty except on such grounds and in accordance with such procedure as are
established by law.
Article 14(3) of the ICCPR states that:
In the determination of any criminal charge against him, everyone shall be
entitled... (g) Not to be compelled to testify against himself or confess
Incommunicado detention increases a detainee's vulnerability to torture or
ill-treatment. Moreover, denial of the right of access to counsel is a
violation of internationally recognized standards for fair trial.
Human Rights Watch is concerned that the prosecution of these four
journalists is part of a campaign of repression and violence targeting
independent media. On 15 September, the Leader Ayatollah Khamene'i gave
impetus to this campaign by threatening to use extra-legal force to silence
independent newspapers which he characterized as "a dangerous, creeping
cultural movement...writing against Islam," unless government officials took
action against them.
On the next day, the newspaper "Tous" which had gained a reputation and a
wide readership among Iranians for its championing of reform was ordered
During the last few months, several newspapers and magazines have been
These include: "Gozaresh-e Rouz", "Khanneh", "Jameh", "Tous", "Rah-e No",
"Tavana", "Jameh Salem", "Asr-e Ma".
Human Rights Watch calls for the immediate and unconditional release of
these four detained journalists. We seek assurances that while they are in
detention they will be well treated and permitted access to legal counsel,
independent medical doctors, and to their family members.
We look forward to your urgent attention to our request , and thank you for
Middle East and North Africa Division