Newsweek reporter leaves Tehran; 25 journalists still in jail

New York, October 20, 2009—With the release of Newsweek reporter Maziar Bahari on bail, the Committee to Protect Journalists today called on Iranian authorities to release the 25 journalists who still remain in prison. 

Bahari, Newsweek’s Tehran correspondent, was released on $300,000 bail on Saturday after spending almost four months in prison, the magazine reported. Newsweek announced his arrival in London today. Bahari was arrested on June 21, following the country’s June 12 presidential elections. His wife, Paola Gourley, is expecting their first child on October 26.

“We are relieved that Maziar Bahari is out of jail and that he can be with his family,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “Our thoughts are now with our colleagues who remain behind bars in Iran. We call on authorities to release all 25 journalists, who are being held under inhumane conditions in Iranian prisons.”  

Among these journalists is Fariba Pajooh, a freelance reporter who has worked for outlets such as Etemad e Melli , the Iranian Labour News Agency, and the Persian service of Radio France International. She was arrested in mid-August and was charged with “propagating against the regime,” according Radio France International. The station reported that she has spent about a month in solitary confinement in Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison and has been under pressure to make false confessions. The Human Rights Activists News Agency, a local watchdog group, reported on October 12 that Pajooh has been under constant interrogation for weeks.

Following the presidential elections, authorities arrested thousands of protesters who challenged the official results. The government cracked down on media by arresting dozens of journalists, censoring newspapers, blocking Web sites, expelling and vilifying foreign journalists and media, and putting on trial several journalists. Twenty of the jailed journalists and bloggers were detained after the June elections, CPJ research has found. About 70 journalists were arrested overall in the crackdown; the majority of those who have been released are out on bail.

Earlier today, the Washington-based International Women’s Media Foundation honored formerly imprisoned journalist Zhila Bani-Yaghoub, who is in Iran, with a Courage in Journalism Award. Her husband, journalist Bahman Ahmadi Omavi, remains in prison in Tehran.