As presidential vote approaches, CPJ calls on government to free jailed journalists

June 6, 2001 — CPJ is concerned that Iran’s June 8 presidential election is taking place in an environment where local journalists are not free to report the news. Five Iranian journalists are currently jailed for their work, according to CPJ research, and dozens of newspapers have been shut down.

“When Iranians last went to the polls in February 2000, the press was a vibrant force, informing the public and debating some of the most contentious issues in Iranian society,” said CPJ executive director Ann Cooper. “Today, the Iranian press has been decimated by judicial authorities. As a result, voters are being denied the possibility of choosing their next president based on a free and open public debate.”

Particularly since last year, a small number of conservative Iranian judges have waged an aggressive campaign against the liberal press, shutting down some 40 newspapers and prosecuting and jailing outspoken journalists. Today, the most influential reformist newspapers have been silenced, at least five journalists are in prison because of their work, and the few pro-reform papers that exist are noticeably more cautious for the sake of their own survival.

CPJ has confirmed the following five cases of Iranian journalists who are currently jailed for their work: Abdullah Nouri (Khordad), Akbar Ganji (Sobh-e-Emrooz, Fat’h), Latif Safari (Neshat) Emadeddin Baghi (Fat’h, Neshat), and Mashallah Shamsolvaezin (Asr-e-Azadegan, Neshat). We continue to investigate three other cases of jailed journalists to determine whether they are in prison because of their work.

“There is no excuse for throwing journalists in prison simply because they expressed views with which conservative authorities happen to disagree. We call on the Iranian government to free all the journalists who are currently jailed for their professional work,” Cooper said.

On May 3 of this year, CPJ named Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to its annual list of the world’s 10 Worst Enemies of the Press. For the latest news about the Iranian press, read Full Court Press, a CPJ Briefing from our correspondent in Tehran.