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Campaigners call on Europe to press Iran over human rights abuses

(IFJ/IFEX) - 4 February 2010 - The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the International Trade-Union Confederation (ITUC) and Amnesty International today called on political leaders in Europe and around the world to put new pressure on Iran to respect human rights and free expression.

In a meeting at the European Parliament entitled "Human, Journalists and Trade-Union Rights in Iran: the New State of Emergency," moderated by MEP Barbara Lochbihler, chair of the European Parliament's Iran Delegation, fresh calls were made for Iran to end intimidation of human rights defenders and to release from jail dozens of journalists, writers, trade unionists and dissidents.

The meeting heard from Marietje Schaake, MEP serving on the foreign affairs committee, Jaap Wienen, Deputy General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, Drewery Dyke, Amnesty International, and Aidan White, General Secretary of the International Federation of Journalists.

The IFJ demanded the immediate release of the 47 journalists currently languishing in Iranian jails, the opening of the Iranian Association of Journalists (AoIJ), which was sealed on 5 August 2009, and the end to suppression of media workers and citizens' voices across the country.

"The work of journalists and the voice of the Iranian people are systematically suppressed in Iran," said Aidan White. "Governments need to apply pressure to demand their release and to demand that the Iranian authorities respect the rights of journalists and human rights defenders."

Iranian and foreign media have been targeted by the authorities. Websites have been closed, newsrooms have been cleared of "reformist" elements, journalists have been arrested in the dead of night and whisked off to undisclosed locations, and two jailed journalists, Mehrdad Rahimi and Kohyar Goodarze, have been recently labeled Mohareba, or "enemies of god", a crime under Iranian law that is punishable by death.

The June 2009 presidential elections in Iran sparked mass protests and civil unrest on a scale not seen since the revolution that established the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979. Long-standing patterns of human rights violations, including severe restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly, intensified during the protests and have continued since.

For months since the disputed elections, the numbers of jailed journalists fluctuated around the low 20s, but in the weeks following the Ashura demonstrations in early January the numbers have dramatically doubled to a list of 47 names today. Three members of the board of the Association of Iranian Journalists, an affiliate of the IFJ, are also in jail, including Mofidi Badrossadat, General Secretary, Shamsolvaezin Mashaallah, Vice President, and board member Mohamad Reza Moghise.

Within the broader trade union community, hundreds of workers have been arrested for supporting the right to organise or participating in legitimate trade union activities. At least two prominent trade union leaders remain in jail and a teacher is on death row. Free trade unions are not recognised by the authorities and anti-union prison sentences passed by the Revolutionary Courts are common practice.

The media crisis is made worse, says the IFJ, by reports of mistreatment of journalists in jail in addition to inmates being denied access to lawyers and their families.

The Association of Iranian Journalists, which normally marks the 2nd of February with their annual journalism awards, sent a direct appeal for support to the European Parliament participants. "The government broke all the voices and freedom of the press and union work in Iran. We hope and expect that you will be our voice there and support us to pass this difficult situation," said the Association of Iranian Journalists.

"If Iran wants to end its isolation, it needs to open itself up to dialogue and self-scrutiny and to allow Iranians to tell their story," added Aidan White. "That would send a signal that it is ready for a new exchange about the future and would automatically lower the temperature in an increasingly tense international situation."

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