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Supreme Leader publicly condemns media; persecuted journalist allowed to leave country

(RSF/IFEX) - RSF is concerned about a verbal assault on the media delivered by the Islamic Republic's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Sayed Ali Khamenei, during a speech to the Assembly of Experts on 5 September 2007.

"What is left of press freedom now in Iran?" the organisation asked. "Ayatollah Khamenei's comments have reinforced the climate of censorship that oppresses all journalists who do not toe the official line. The last time the Supreme Leader attacked the media, in the spring of 2000, a wave of repression was unleashed on pro-reform newspapers."

In his 5 September address, Khamenei accused the Iranian media of "malice" and of "collaborating with enemy media" and he condemned the way some newspapers hailed former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani's election on 3 September to head the Assembly of Experts as a blow to the hardliners.

Khamenei's attack on the media came less than a week after the release of a joint statement signed by more than 150 journalists protesting against a decline in press freedom. They criticised Tehran prosecutor Said Mortazavi for summoning newspaper editors to ban them from referring to the case of three students who have been held for three months for allegedly publishing "anti-Islamic" articles. They also threatened to continue issuing joint statements if the situation did not change.

Meanwhile, Iranian-American journalist Parnaz Azima was summoned by intelligence ministry officials on 4 September and told that she would be given her passport back and would be allowed to leave the country. Azima's passport was confiscated when she arrived in Iran last January with the aim of visiting her ailing mother.

Azima is nonetheless still charged with circulating anti-revolutionary propaganda and engaging in activities against state security because she works for Radio Farda, an independent station based in Prague.

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