The Islamic Republic of Iran has arrested 16 journalists in the capital Tehran, accused of cooperating with foreign Persian-language media organisations. It is reported that state security officers targeted a number of ‘reformist publications’, raided offices, filmed staff and confiscated documents.
The BBC claims that Iran based journalists from its Persian Service and their families have been called in for questioning and smeared via false web-sites and social-media.
Many believe the latest crackdown comes as the country prepares to vote in presidential elections in June.
Unrest broke out in Iran in 2009 following the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Reporters Without Borders has accused the Islamic Republic of Iran of cracking down on freedom of expression. The organisation has condemned the action of Iran following the arrest of 16 journalists in the country.
Reza Moini, from Reporters Without Borders, monitors the well-being of journalists in Iran and spoke to euronews journalist Reihaneh Mazaheri from Paris:
Reihaneh Mazaheri, euronews: “Mr. Moini, three days after the latest wave of the arrests, the Iranian Intelligence Ministry issued a statement accusing those arrested of collaborating with the Persian-speaking media outside Iran. According to you more arrests are expected. Why is that, what are the reasons?”
Reza Moini: “In the statement we issued after the arrests were made, the day now known as “Black Sunday,” we said that there is possibility of further arrests and we are saddened that the Ministry of Intelligence of the Islamic Republic of Iran is still maintaining the position it has held for many years.
“They continue to level accusations against journalists and this, in our view, is not right and does nothing to address the crisis in Iran. The fact of the matter is that, despite all the red lines and all the existing censorship, journalists in Iran are trying to provide information that the Islamic Republic regime cannot tolerate.”
euronews: “Reporters without Borders, Human Rights Watch and more than two hundred Iranian journalists at home and abroad have also issued statements in protest over the arrests. Do such reactions have any impact on the regime in Iran?”
Reza Moini: “It is the 34th anniversary of Ayatollah Khomeini’s return to Iran. Since then such actions against journalists have been commonplace. What is important is not to be silent. In these cases, all human rights organisations, Iranian journalists at home and abroad can play an effective role by protesting against the arrests of their fellow journalists.
“We should emphasise the point that 34 years after the start of Islamic rule, Iran is, unfortunately, one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a journalist. Today, 62 journalists and bloggers in Iran are in prison.”
euronews: “Apart from issuing a statement, what other measures is your organisation taking to prevent the recent crackdown from spreading?”
Reza Moini: “Our duty is to report and disseminate the facts regarding freedom of expression, freedom of the press and freedom of information in Iran. Two days ago, the we issued the global ranking for the freedom of the press and, out of 179 countries, Iran is ranked 174th.”
euronews: “Should we expect a new wave Iranian journalists to flee the country?”
Reza Moini: “Unfortunately, any system of suppression causes people to leave the country. A large number of journalists have been summoned and arrested in Tehran and across the country. In the capital, 16 have been arrested so far. I think the move heralds a further crackdown on journalists and force(s) them to leave the country.”
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