In Iran, five journalists released, two arrested

New York, August 4, 2009–Five journalists have been released in Iran, including one on Monday who had been held for a year. The other four were picked up in the crackdown following the June 12 elections.

Authorities released freelance journalist Massoud Kurdpour on Monday after he completed a one-year jail term in Mahabad Central Prison in northwestern Iran. Kurdpour was initially arrested in August 2008 and was found guilty in October 2008 of making “propaganda against the regime,” CPJ research shows.

Also released was Ali-Reza Beheshti, editor-in-chief of Kalameh Sabz, a newspaper affiliated with defeated presidential candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi, a local journalist told CPJ. He was arrested on June 22, hours after security agents detained about 25 staffers from his paper; most of them were let go after a week. Two other journalists who were never identified were released at a later date.

Kambiz Nouroozi, director of legal affairs at the Association of Iranian Journalists, was freed in late July. He was initially arrested on June 28.

“We are pleased that five journalists have been released from prison in Iran but we don’t believe this represents a softening of the government’s resolve to control the media,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Mohamed Abdel Dayem. “We ask that the journalists still in prison receive access to lawyers and due process.”

CPJ has confirmed the arrest of two other journalists, who were detained soon after the elections. Fatemeh Khavari, director of the weekly newspaper Chragh, was arrested on June 22, according to press reports. Omid Selimi, a photographer who worked for Nesf e Jehan newspaper in Esfahan, was arrested on June 14 after he was summoned to the Revolutionary Guards’ office to pick up belongings that had been confiscated during an earlier arrest, according to Human Rights and Democracy Activists in Iran, a local human rights watchdog. Selimi was also detained in December 2008 and spent three months in prison for unspecified charges.

Iran remains the world’s leading jailer of journalists with 36 in jail.

In another development, on July 31, Iranian forces detained three Americans who were hiking in a resort area on the Iran-Iraq border in Iraqi Kurdistan. The detainees are Shane Bauer, a freelance journalist, Sarah Shroud, a writer and teacher, and environmentalist Joshua Fattal, according to international news reports. Bauer is a Damascus-based correspondent for New America Media in San Francisco.