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Local rights group pushes for national dialogue on nuclear energy in Iran

Former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visits the Natanz nuclear enrichment facility, south of Tehran on 8 April 2008
Former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visits the Natanz nuclear enrichment facility, south of Tehran on 8 April 2008

REUTERS/Presidential official website/Handout (IRAN)

Reporters Without Borders supports the appeal launched by Nobel peace laureate Shirin Ebadi's Center for Supporters of Human Rights for a “national dialogue on nuclear energy” in Iran. The appeal has been signed by around 100 well-known Iranian intellectuals, journalists and human rights defenders.

“The issue of nuclear energy in Iran has always been left to the government of the day, both before and after the revolution, and for this reason is regarded as a political matter,” the appeal says. “But it is not just a political issue. It also concerns the economy, society and the environment and therefore affects all Iranian citizens.

The appeal adds: “Iranians do not have enough information about the advantages and disadvantages of nuclear energy for their country, although it is a subject of national concern that directly influences people's daily lives. It is why we are subjected to unprecedented sanctions and why our country has been threatened with war.”

Reporters Without Borders said: “Ever since the revelations about Iran's nuclear activities at the start of the past decade, any coverage of this issue has been banned by the many government bodies responsible for monitoring and regulating the media.

“Journalists are constantly censored, not only by the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Orientation and its censorship wing, the Press Authorization and Surveillance Commission, but also by the ministry of intelligence, the Revolutionary Guards, the public prosecutor and the High Council for National Security.

“They are forbidden to cover all nuclear matters such as the signing of an International Atomic Energy Agency protocol, the negotiations about Iran's nuclear programme with the “5+1” group (China, France, Germany, Russia, United Kingdom and United States), representing the international community, and even nuclear energy's environmental impact and the cost of building nuclear power plants.”

On 10 October 2003, Reporters Without Borders issued a press release condemning the National Security Council's suspension of the newspaper Entekhab (The Choice) following an article about regime in-fighting over the signing of an IAEA protocol and the prior censorship subsequently imposed by the council on this issue.

The Entekhab article highlighted the fact that both parliament and a presidential body supposedly in charge of signing the protocol had been sidelined and that all decision-making had been assumed by an ad hoc committee organized by the Supreme Leader.

Entekhab editor Mohamad Mehdi Faghihi and political editor Mohsen Mandegari were summoned by a Tehran revolutionary court and were held overnight.

The Baztab website was banned on 12 February 2007 after criticizing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in reports about the nuclear industry and corruption. The Ahmadinejad administration billed nuclear power as “the country's biggest challenge” and tried to use it to divert attention from Iran's major economic and social problems.

“Many journalists in different cities have been threatened or arrested on spying charges over the years for referring to nuclear energy issues,” Reporters Without Borders added. “This censorship of nuclear coverage violates journalists' freedom to inform and Iranians' right to be informed.

“Journalists have a fundamental role to play as regards to informing the public on such sensitive matters, but the Iranian authorities try to suppress all independent coverage of nuclear issues so that only the official version is available.”

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