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IFEX members sign on to NFFE statement on press freedom and democracy in Iran

(NFFE/IFEX) - The following is a joint action signed by IFEX members on the
state of press freedom and democracy in Iran:

Democracy takes a step back through recent statements by President Khatami

The United States has lifted its economic sanctions on Iran. The ongoing
social and economic developments in Iran, enhanced and applauded by a number
of increasingly eager Western countries, make us forget the fact that the
existence of censorship, the lack of freedom of expression and the
nonexistence of a free, independent press is still a serious hindrance to
democratic development in Iran.

In his 23 May 1999 speech to 107,000 members of Iranian city councils,
President Mohammad Khatami said that "the press must not exceed the limits
and the frameworks set up through religious rules." Later, in a 25 May
speech, Khatami stated that "a civilized society can only be built based on
religion and through the advices of the religious leaders."

These speeches are contradictory to Khatami's prior statements, statements
which led to his election and which he has made repeatedly in order to
reconciliate Iran with the Western world.

The religious laws - the "shariat" - and the Iranian constitution which
Khatami refers to are in sharp contrast to basic humanitarian standards, as
for instance the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights. There are big
differences between the followers of the "Islamic system" and true believers
in Islam who are still advocates for a more open society. A recent example
is the detention of Mohsan Kadivar, a muslim priest who is open to
democratic reforms.

There is no free press in Iran. The "Supreme Judicial Council" of Iran
recently warned the press of "adjusting to national and international
enemies, sionists and imperialists" and stated that "if they exceed the
limits of the 'shariat' they will be treated as traitors by the Iranian
courts." A recent article with insults and indictment against Simin
Behbahani, the Iranian poet and member of the ad-hoc committee to establish
The Iranian Writers Association, is another example that was recently
produced by the Iranian newspaper "Keyhan".

The Iranian people are demanding answers to the massacres and disappearances
of writers and intellectuals. Through his recent statements, Khatami is now
showing his true face and the situation for the Iranian people is turning
even more hopeless.

The Norwegian Forum for Freedom of Expression, other IFEX members listed
below, and the Iranian Writers Association (in exile) demand an end to all
censorship, respect for Article 19 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights,
which confirms freedom of speech and the free flow of information as basic,
democratic human rights, and deplore further harassments from Iranian
religious extremists.


AMARC - World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression
EOHR, Egyptian Organization for Human Rights
Freedom House
Greek Helsinki Monitor
HKJA, Hong Kong Journalists Association
ISAI, Institute for the Studies on Free Flow of Information, Indonesia
International Press Institute
Norwegian Forum for Freedom of Expression
Iranian Writers Association (in exile, not an IFEX member)

Norwegian PEN

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