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Three journalists sentenced to prison, another on trial, for covering demonstrations; "Disgah" and Kurdistan TV reporters out on bail

(RSF/IFEX) - RSF has condemned the judicial harassment of journalists who cover demonstrations. Four have been tried by revolutionary tribunals in recent weeks, three of them receiving prison sentences. Others are awaiting trial or the announcement of the court's verdict.

"We are dismayed by these sentences," the press freedom organisation said. "These journalists just did their duty to report the news and have been convicted for political reasons. If there is a political activity in Iran, the media must cover it. But once again, brute force is the government's only response."

A revolutionary tribunal in the city of Sanandaj, in Iran's Kurdish northwestern region, sentenced Ejlal Ghavami of "Payam-e mardom-e Kurdistan" (a weekly that has been closed by the authorities since 2004) to three years in prison on 9 June 2007 for "inciting revolt" and "undermining national security." Freelance journalist Said Saedi was sentenced to two and a half years in prison on the same charges. The same tribunal sentenced Roya Toloui, the editor of the newspaper "Resan", to six months in prison on 22 May. Her newspaper has been closed since 2005.

All three journalists were arrested while covering a peaceful demonstration outside the prefect's office in Sanandaj on 30 July 2005 and were held for several months before being freed on bail. Tolui is now abroad. Saedi and Ghavami still live in Iran. They say that whenever they have tried to work for a newspaper since 2005, its editors have been harassed by the intelligence agencies.

Condemning their conviction and sentences, their lawyer, Nemat Ahamdi, told RSF: "They are journalists, and it is normal for journalists to be out on the streets doing their job and going to places where there are demonstrations. This conviction is unacceptable and we are going to appeal."

Aso Salah of the weekly "Disgah" has meanwhile been summoned to appear before the Sanandaj court on 16 June. He was arrested by intelligence operatives on 8 March after covering an International Women's Day demonstration, and was released on 18 March 2007 after paying 100 million toumen (approx. 85,000 euros) in bail.

In Tehran, Bahaman Ahmadi Amoee of the daily "Sarmayeh" was summoned and tried on 6 June by the revolutionary court's 13th division on charges of "participating in an illegal demonstration," "undermining national security" and "publicity against the Islamic Republic." The verdict is pending. He was arrested along with two other journalists while covering a feminist movement's demonstration against "sexual apartheid in Iran" on 22 June 2006.

Kia Jahani of Kurdistan TV, who was arrested for no clear reason in the city of Marivan on 24 February 2007, was freed on bail at the beginning of May.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Ayatollah Khamenei are both on RSF's list of the world's 34 worst press freedom predators.

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