Iran Closes Newspaper Tous
Staff Members Reported Arrested

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September 18, 1998

 

His Excellency Sayed Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
Guide to the Islamic Republic of Iran
Park-e Shahr Tehran
Islamic Republic of Iran

 

Your Excellency:

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), a non-governmental organization of journalists devoted to upholding press freedom worldwide, is writing to strongly protest the Iranian authorities' closure of the newspaper Tous and the reported arrest of members of its staff.

The official news agency IRNA reported on Wednesday that judicial authorities order the paper's closure, effective September 16, for its "publication of articles against national interests and security of the country." Muhammad Sadeq Javadi-Hessar, the newspaper's publisher, received a letter on Tuesday which stated that Tous would remain closed until further notice, pending an investigation. Authorities sealed Tous' offices on Wednesday.

IRNA also reported that "some managers" from the newspaper were arrested on Wednesday for questioning in front of a revolutionary court. The "managers" in question are believed to be Hamid Reza Jalaipour, the chairman of the paper's publishing company (Jameah-e-Ruz) and Mashallah Shamsolvaezin, editor of Tous. The newspaper Hamshahri reported yesterday that arrest warrants had also been issued for Javadi-Hessar, Muhammad Mohsen Sazgara, executive director of Jameah-e-Ruz, and reporter Said Ibrahime Nubari.

It is suspected that these sanctions against Tous come as the result of a story the newspaper published on Monday citing the views of Ayatollah Abol-Qasem Khoei Moi, a cleric who has challenged the legitimacy of the concept of veliyat e faqih, or governance by an Islamic jurist. We also note with grave concern that the actions by authorities followed public statements made by Your Excellency this week accusing "certain newspapers" of succumbing to a "Western cultural onslaught…targeting people's faith, Islam and the revolution," and adding that ``I am giving final notice to officials to act and see which newspapers violate the limits of freedom.''

Both Tous and its predecessor— the daily Jameah—have earned a reputation for their daring coverage of political and social issues in Iran and have been targets of concerted official harassment. On June 10, a Tehran court ordered the closure of Jameah and banned Jalaipour from heading a newspaper for a period of one year for allegedly publishing insults and false information. The charges stemmed from several articles published in Jameah which were critical of Iranian public figures, including Revolutionary Guards commander Brig. Gen. Yahya Rahim Safavi, whom the paper quoted as making threatening statements against "liberals" and "antirevolutionaries." In July, an appellate court upheld the closure of Jameah, effective on July 25, and reduced the ban against Jalaipour to two months.

CPJ views the closure of Tous and the arrest of its staff as a further attempt by Iranian authorities to silence criticism of the government and to discourage the emergence of independent print media . As such, these actions constitute flagrant violations of the most fundamental norms of free expression as guaranteed under international law and Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which grants journalists the right to "seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers." We urge Your Excellency to assume a leadership role in ensuring that Iranian authorities adopt the following recommendations aimed at bringing Iran's practices into accordance with international standards for a free press:

• Ensure that Tous be allowed to resume publication immediately;

• Secure the release of those journalists now under arrest and see to it that any charges brought against them in response to their publication of news and opinion be dismissed.

• End judicial and other harassment of the press and guarantee journalists the ability to practice their profession freely without state interference.

• Ensure that the Iranian judiciary respect the internationally recognized right of journalists to publish a diversity of views, including those which are critical of the government or state policies.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter. We look forward to a reply at your earliest convenience.

 

Sincerely,

 

Ann K. Cooper

Executive Director



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His Excellency Sayed Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
Guide to the Islamic Republic of Iran
Park-e Shahr Tehran
Islamic Republic of Iran