Internet journalists targeted as government turns repressive gaze toward Web

New York, November 11, 2004—The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the latest arrest in the Iranian government’s weeks-long crackdown on the press, which has focused heavily on Internet journalists and led to numerous imprisonments without formal charge.

At least eight journalists have been detained since the crackdown began in early September, Mashallah Shamsolvaezin, spokesman for the Iranian Committee for the Defense of Freedom of the Press, said in an interview with CPJ.

Mahboubeh Abasghalizadeh, editor of the quarterly women’s publication Farzaneh, was the most recent to be arrested when she was taken into custody on November 2. Abasghalizadeh also wrote for online publications.

Detained in October were Fereshteh Qadi, a journalist with the daily, Etemad, and a contributor to online journals; Reza Mir Ebrahimi, an online journalist; and Omid Memarian, an online journalist and human rights activist. Amir Mojiri, an online journalist, and Shahram Rafizadeh, an editor at Etemad, have been detained since early September.

Two journalists were released today after weeks behind bars: Javad Gholam Tamimi, a journalist with the daily Mardomsalari who had been detained since October; and Hanif Mazrui, an online journalist detained in early September.

Shamsolvaezin said the government has announced no formal charges against any of the journalists. A judiciary spokesman, he said, made vague accusations that the detained journalists had acted against national interests and were guilty of violating public morals.

Since April 2000, Iranian authorities have shuttered dozens of mostly pro-reformist newspapers, causing many journalists and readers to turn to the Internet as the last venue for independent reporting. But this fall, the government turned its repressive gaze toward the Web.

“We call on Iranian authorities to immediately release all journalists who remain in detention,” CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said. “With many newspapers already silenced, it is alarming that Iranian authorities have set their sights on quashing critical reporting and commentary on the Internet.”