Two more journalists detained as press crackdown continues

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New York, August 14, 2000 — Iran’s conservative-controlled judiciary pushed ahead with its sweeping assault on the country’s reformist press, arresting two more journalists over the weekend, according to the official Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA).

Popular political satirist Ebrahim Nabavi, who wrote for a number of now-banned reformist publications, was arrested on Saturday by order of Tehran’s notorious Press Court, IRNA reported. On Sunday, the court ordered the arrest of columnist Mohammad Ghoochani, a writer for the banned pro-reform daily Asr-e-Azadegan. The precise reason for the arrests remains unclear.

At least five reformist journalists have been arrested during the past two weeks. Nabavi and Ghoochani join at least five other Iranian journalists—Abdullah Nouri, Mashallah Shamsolvaezin, Akbar Ganji, Emmaddine Baghi, and Latif Safari—who are currently serving stiff prison terms for their published work. Several more journalists face jail sentences if convicted in cases before the courts.

The recent arrests followed Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s decisive August 6 move to quash a draft bill in parliament aimed at reforming Iran’s harsh press code, which was passed last March by the outgoing, conservative-dominated Majles (parliament). The bill was introduced by Majles deputies who support President Mohammed Khatami’s agenda of social and political liberalization.

Since April, conservative elements in the Iranian judiciary have ordered the closure of 24 newspapers and magazines—all but one of which backed President Khatami’s reformist agenda—in a sweeping crackdown on the reformist press.

But in what could be interpreted as a move by judicial authorities to ease their all-out repression of the reformist media, deputy head of the judiciary Hadi Marvi announced today that bans imposed in recent months against certain reformist newspapers “will be lifted,” according to Iranian press reports.