Penn’s video camera briefly seized

New York, June 13, 2005—
Iranian authorities briefly seized the video camera of actor-turned-journalist Sean Penn as he was recording a demonstration in Tehran on Sunday, The Washington Post reported. Penn, accredited as a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle, is providing coverage of the Iranian presidential election for the newspaper.

“While this incident was not terribly serious, it highlights the difficulties that journalists in Iran face every day,” said Ann Cooper, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists. “Photojournalist Zahra Kazemi was detained by Iranian authorities and died while in custody in 2003 after she took pictures outside of Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison. Iranian authorities have decimated the independent press, shutting down newspapers and jailing journalists who dared to criticize the regime.”

Akbar Ganji, a prominent Iranian journalist jailed for his investigative reporting, has been imprisoned since 2001. He was recently furloughed—only to be rearrested last weekend.

On Sunday, Penn was trying to record a demonstration by several hundred women outside the front gate of Tehran University, the Post reported. The protesters chanted and staged a sit-in to demand rights revoked after the 1979 Islamic revolution. Penn recently arrived in Iran as a reporter for his friend, Phil Bronstein, editor of the San Francisco Chronicle.