Iran: CPJ protests official campaign to silence opposition media

July 15, 1999

His Excellency Seyed Mohammad Khatami
President of the Islamic Republic of Iran
The Presidency
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 express its deep concern about the ongoing campaign to stifle the independent Iranian press.

While the Iranian press has become noticeably more free since your excellency took office in August 1997, opposition newspapers and journalists have also come under relentless attack from factions within the government. Since January 1998, twelve newspapers have been closed for printing material that members of the ruling elite deemed unacceptable, and many journalists have been arrested and prosecuted for their reporting on a variety of sensitive political topics.

In these difficult times, we urge your excellency to uphold the application of international law in Iran, including 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.” The massive student demonstrations that followed the recent closure of the independent daily newspaper Salam and the passage of new legislation restricting press freedom prove, in our view, that these ideals enjoy wide public support inside Iran.

On July 7, 1999, according to reports from the official news agency IRNA and other published sources, the Majlis gave preliminary approval to a new press law that compels journalists to reveal their sources and bars opposition journalists and editors from “any form of press activities.” The new law also criminalizes the profession of journalism by making reporters personally liable for what they write.

That same day, an Iranian court ordered Salam to cease publication, after the intelligence ministry complained that the paper had printed a secret government report in its July 6 edition detailing an alleged official plot to restrict journalistic expression in Iran. Even though the intelligence ministry withdrew its complaint on July 9, Salamremains closed pending a justice ministry review of the suspension.

CPJ hopes that your excellency will use your good offices to ensure that Iranian authorities adopt the following recommendations aimed at bringing Iran¼s practices into accordance with international standards for a free press:

1. Ensure that Salambe allowed to resume publication immediately.
2. End judicial and other harassment of Iranian newspapers and journalists.
3. Ensure that the internationally recognized right of journalists to publish a diversity of views, including views that are critical of the government or of state policies, is respected in Iran.

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


Ann K. Cooper
Executive Director

Join CPJ in Protesting Attacks on the Press in Iran.

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His Excellency Seyed Mohammad Khatami
President of the Islamic Republic of Iran
The Presidency
Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran
Fax: +98 21 64 66 415