Authorities close journalists' association; three journalists arrested
(IFJ/IFEX) - 6 August 2009 - The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today called on Iranian authorities to end the campaign of intimidation of journalists in the country following the closure last night of the Association of Journalists in Tehran whose offices were raided and sealed by armed men.
In a meeting this morning with the Iranian Ambassador to the European Union and Belgium, the IFJ General Secretary Aidan White said that up to 42 journalists held in jail should be set free and the Association of Iranian Journalists (AoIJ), an IFJ affiliate, should be allowed to function.
"There must be an end to intimidation of journalists if there is to be a new dialogue," said White. The IFJ says that the closure of the Association of Journalists, within hours of the swearing in of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for a second term after weeks of post-election unrest, sends a chilling message about the country's attitude toward press freedom.
After the meeting in Brussels White said: "Government actions against media and journalists erode further the credibility and standing of the Government in national and the world opinion."
According to the AoIJ, some of whose leaders are in hiding fearing for their safety, their offices were closed on the order of the government's general prosecutor, Saeid Mortazavi. The Association says it had planned a general assembly, which the authorities had banned.
The IFJ says three more journalists arrested in Tehran this week bring the number of jailed journalists to 42. Reza Nourabakhsh, editor of Farhikhtegan daily, Mehdi Yazdani Khoram, editor at Itmad e Milli, and Mir-Hamid Hassanzadeh of the Iranian students' News agency, ISNA and director of Ghalam News website, close to defeated presidential candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi, were arrested on 5 August.
The AoIJ has also confirmed the death of Alireza Eftekhari, journalist of Abrar Economic daily, who died from injuries sustained on 15 June at the hands of Iranian security forces during a media clampdown following protests over the Presidential elections.
"Iran must not make journalists scapegoats for its political troubles," said White. "Journalism should be supported as a voice for democratic rights."