In Iran, newspapers censored, another reporter arrested

New York, July 2, 2009–At least 24 journalists remain jailed in Iran, according to the latest CPJ research, while the government has instituted a broad and intrusive censorship regime.

The government prevented a total of five national newspapers from publishing on Wednesday, according to local news reports. At least three of the papers said that representatives of the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance had stopped them from publishing articles because they tried to run articles about the defeated candidates, according to the Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA), and statements by the newspapers.

The Tehran-based Hayat e No, Hambastegy, Itmad e Milli, Andisha e No, and Seday e Edalet didn’t appear on newsstands on Wednesday, ISNA reported. Itmad e Milli, Hayat e No, and Seday w Edalet confirmed the news. Hayat e No reported on its Web site today that the newspaper did not publish for a second day in a row because of censorship.

“Three weeks ago, Iran invited the international press to the country to witness its democratic elections. Now it is engaging in the kind of crude censorship that is the hallmark of an authoritarian regime,” said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, CPJ program coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa.

Muhammad Jawad Haq-Shunas, manager of Etemad e Melli , which is owned by defeated presidential candidate Mehdi Karroubi, told ISNA that a representative of the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance censored an article by Karroubi about the decision of the Council of Experts to uphold the disputed election results. “We were ready to leave the space [where the article would have appeared] blank, but that was rejected,” he said. “At that hour, we could not replace the article.”

Hameed Qazwini, editor-in-chief of Hayat e No, told ISNA that the ministry representative had deleted a number of articles, including one about the defeated candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi. On June 17, the newspaper and Hambastegy  were also not published as a result of censorship. ISNA reported that Seday e Edalet gave similar reasons for not going to press. Hambastegy and Andisha e No were not available to comment, according to ISNA.

Local journalists have increasingly complained about censorship in Iran following the country’s disputed presidential elections on June 12. On June 22, at least 180 local journalists signed a petition complaining about censorship. 

In a separate development, authorities arrested Abulfadhl Abidini, a freelance journalist and human right activist, on Tuesday in Ahwaz, southwest Iran, according to the U.S.-funded Radio Farda. Security agents searched his house before taking him, the station reported.

Dozens of journalists, most of whom work for local media, have been detained since June 12. At least two of them work for international media outlets. Below is a list of journalists who were detained in the aftermath of the disputed presidential elections.

Note: Journalists who were detained but have since been released are not included. The list only includes journalists who remain in custody as of July 2. The names below reflect those whose detention could be independently verified by CPJ.

Abulfazl Abedini , Freelance

DETAINED:  June 30, 2009

Abidini, a freelance journalist and human right activist, was arrested in Ahwaz in southwest Iran on June 30, according to the U.S.-backed Radio Farda. Security agents searched his house before taking him, the radio station reported. Abidini was also arrested last year after he reported on a strike by workers at a factory in Ahwaz.


Mujtaba Tehrani, Etemad e Melli

DETAINED:  June 27, 2009

Tehrani, a reporter with the newspaper owned by defeated presidential candidate Mehdi Karroubi, was arrested on his way home, according to Saham News, a news Web site affiliated with Karroubi. According to Saham News, Tehrani had informed his family that he was returning home from work, but never arrived. The following day police visited his home, searched it, and took his computer, the Web site reported.


Names unknown (3), Kalameh Sabz

DETAINED: June 22, 2009

Although 25 staffers of Kalameh Sabz, a newspaper owned by defeated presidential contender Mir-Hossein Mousavi, were initially detained, Ayande News, a self-described independent news Web site, reported on June 29 that 22 of them had been released.


Alireza Beheshti, Kalameh Sabz

DETAINED:  June 22, 2009

Beheshti, editor-in-chief of Kalameh Sabz, was arrested on June 22 as he was leaving the newspaper, according to several local news reports. His arrest came hours after security agents detained about 25 staffers, local press reported.


Mustafa Qwanlu Ghajar, Sepideh Danaei

DETAINED:  June 22, 2009

Ghajar, a journalist with the monthly magazine Sepideh Danaei who also blogs at Ghajar, was arrested on June 22, according to local news reports. The details of his arrest remain unknown.


Maziar Bahari, Newsweek

DETAINED:  June 20, 2009

Security agents arrested Newsweek‘s Tehran correspondent, Maziar Bahari, the magazine reported. The officers, who did not identify themselves, took Bahari’s laptop and several videotapes, according to Newsweek. On June 30, Fars News agency posted an 11-page “confession” from Bahari in which he allegedly blames Western media groups for the unrest that followed the contested June 12 presidential elections.


Zhila Bani-Yaghoub, Iranian Women’s Club

Bahman Ahmadi Omavi, Affiliation unknown

DETAINED:  June 19, 2009

Bani-Yaghoub and Omavi, who are married, were arrested by security forces in Tehran, the U.S.-funded Radio Farda reported. Bani-Yaghoub is the editor-in-chief of the Iranian Women’s Club, a women’s rights Web site. Ishrat Awliai, Bani-Yaghoub’s mother, told the Iranian Women’s Club on July 1 that since her arrest Bani-Yaghoub has contacted her family just once from Evin Prison. The mother also said that during the raid security agents took two computers and mobile phones.


Rajab-Ali Mazroui, the Association of Iranian Journalists

DETAINED:  June 19, 2009

Mazroui, director of the Association of Iranian Journalists, was arrested on June 19, according to multiple local news reports. The details of his arrest in Tehran remain unknown.


Muhammad Ghouchani, Etemad e Melli

DETAINED:  June 19, 2009

Ghouchani, editor-in-chief of Etemad e Melli , which is owned by defeated presidential candidate Mehdi Karroubi, was arrested on June 19 by Ettelaat intelligence agents, the BBC Persian service reported. On June 30, Javan, a newspaper aligned with President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, published a “confession” allegedly made by Ghouchani, although the paper only identified him by his initials. The newspaper reported that Ghouchani confessed to having been trained in a Persian Gulf country in preparation for a revolution.


Iason Athanasiadis, freelance/The Washington Times

DETAINED: June 17, 2009

Fars News, a semi-official news agency, reported on Athanasiadis’ arrest without revealing his name. The agency only said that the journalist was working for the Washington Times. Athanasiadis, a dual Greek and British national, was later identified by name by the Iranian government. He was detained at the airport as he was preparing to leave the country.


Saeed Laylaz , Sarmaia

DETAINED:  June 17, 2009

Lilaz, a journalist for the daily business journal Sarmaia and a vocal critic of President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad’s economic policy, was arrested in his home on June 17, his wife, Sepharnaz Panahi, told the BBC Persian service. She said that officers searched their home and confiscated videotapes, hard disks, and letters. The family doesn’t know where Lilaz is being held, the BBC reported. Sarmaia also reported the arrest.


Karim Arghandehpour, blogger

DETAINED:  June 17, 2009

Arghandehpour, a journalist who blogs at Futurama, was arrested on June 17, according to news reports. Arghandehpour wrote for the now-defunct reformist newspapers Salaam and Vaghaa-ye-Ettefaaghyeh, according to the Tehran Bureau, a news Web site. 


Mohammad Ali Abtahi, blogger

DETAINED:  June 16, 2009

The well-known blogger Abtahi, who is an advisor to the defeated presidential candidate Mehdi Karroubi and was vice president during Mohammad Khatami’s presidency, was arrested on June 16, the BBC Persian service reported. A blog entry on his site states that he will resume writing as soon as he is released. His wife, Fatima Abtahi, told the BBC that three men in plainclothes visited their home in Tehran and took him away.


Sumaia Tawhidlu, blogger

DETAINED:  Mid-June 

Tawhidlu, who blogs at Sahel e Salamat and is a supporter of defeated reformist candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi, was arrested in mid-June in Tehran, according to local news reports. The precise date of her arrest is unknown.


Ahmad Zaid-Abadi, Rooz Online

DETAINED:  Mid-June  

Zaid-Abadi, a well-known journalist who writes a weekly column for Rooz Online, a Farsi and English reformist news Web site, was arrested in mid-June in Tehran. Zaid-Abadi is also the director of the Organization of University Alumni of the Islamic Republic of Iran and a supporter of the defeated candidate Mehdi Karroubi. The details of his arrest remain unknown.


Mehamsa Amrabadi, Etemad e Melli

Behzad Bashbo, date unknown

Khalil Mir-Ashrafi, date unknown

DETAINED:  June 15, 2009

Amrabadi, a reporter for Etemad e Melli newspaper, was arrested on June 15, her mother, Maryam Naqi, told the BBC Persian service. Naqi told the BBC that the Ministry of Justice informed her on June 18 that her daughter was being held at Evin Prison. On June 17, Ham Mihan, a news Web site, reported that the cartoonist Bashbo and television producer Mir-Ashrafi were guests at Amrabadi’s home in Tehran when all the three were detained.


Mojtaba Pour-Mohssen, Gilan Imrouz

DETAINED:  June 15, 2009

Ettelaat intelligence agents in Rasht, 150 miles (240 kilometers) northwest of Tehran, arrested Pour-Mohssen, editor-in-chief of the daily Gilan Imrouz and contributor to Radio Zamaaneh, an Internet radio station, according to the online station. It reported that agents took a computer, books, and films from his home. Pour-Mohssen also authors a blog called Haftha. His blog was last updated on June 13. Radio Zamaaneh reported that he is being held at Lakan Prison in Rasht.


Shiwa Nazar-Ahari, blogger

DETAINED:  June 14, 2009

Nazar-Ahari, a blogger and a member of the Committee of Human Rights Reporters, a local watchdog group, was arrested by Ettelaat intelligence agents in her Tehran office on June 14, the committee reported.


Kayvan Samimi , Nama

DETAINED:  June 14, 2009

Samimi, manager of the now-defunct monthly magazine Nama, was arrested on June 14 in Tehran, according to multiple online articles.