Middle East and North Africa cases 2003: Country List    I   Middle East and North Africa Regional Home Page
How CPJ investigates and classifies attacks on the press

JANUARY 11, 2003


Bahar, a reformist-leaning newspaper, was closed by Tehran's conservative Press Court for unspecified reasons. The paper, which was initially banned on August 8, 2000, had been publishing again for only about two weeks when the suspension order came. The paper is owned by a close associate of President Mohamed Khatami.


Hayat-e-No, a reformist-leaning daily, was suspended by a special clergy court after the paper ran a caricature that religious leaders considered insulting to the late Ayatollah Khomeini. The caricature, from the 1930s, depicted former U.S. president Franklin Roosevelt flattening a Supreme Court justice. Religious officials claimed that the justice, who wore a black robe and was bearded, depicted Ayatollah Khomeini.

JANUARY 20, 2003


Tehran's conservative Press Court issued an order indefinitely suspending the publication of the reformist-leaning daily Norooz several days before it was to begin republishing. Norooz was originally suspended for six months in May 2002, and the closure was confirmed on appeal in July 2002.

The paper was scheduled to begin republishing on January 24, but the court order blocked the paper from printing, citing unspecified "complaints" about the publication.

JANUARY 22, 2003


Tehran's Press Court suspended the reformist-leaning newspaper Hamshahri for 10 days after it failed to print a letter of reply from Ali Reza Mahjoub, head of Iran's Trade Union. Mahjoub had filed a complaint with the court claiming that the paper refused to print his reply to an article about him that he said was inaccurate.

Although Iranian law stipulates that publications are obligated to print all letters of reply, sources have reported that the law is rarely enforced, and that readers routinely submit letters that are rejected.

Mahjoub later withdrew his complaint after his letter was printed in another paper. The suspension was subsequently reduced to five days, and the paper began publishing again on January 28.

JULY 10, 2003
Posted: July 27, 2004

Zahra Kazemi, freelance

Kazemi, an Iranian-Canadian freelance photographer, died in Tehran's Baghiatollah Hospital after being transferred from government custody. Kazemi, a contributor to the Montreal-based magazine Recto Verso and the London-based photo agency Camera Press, was detained on June 23 while taking photographs of the families of detainees outside Tehran's Evin Prison. She was held for nearly two weeks before being transferred to the hospital in a coma.

During subsequent weeks, officials tried to cover up the circumstances of Kazemi's death. Initially, Iranian officials maintained that the journalist had died of a stroke, and that she had complained of poor health while she was detained. On July 16, Iranian Vice President Mohammad Ali Abtahi announced that Kazemi had died from a "brain hemorrhage resulting from beatings." Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi later backed away from the statement, saying the journalist may have died from an "accident." A government inquiry released in late July 2003 concluded that Kazemi died as a result of a skull fracture likely caused by a blow to her head.

Authorities prevented an autopsy by burying Kazemi's body in Iran against the wishes of her family in Canada. The Canadian government responded by withdrawing its ambassador to Tehran. In the ensuing months, several agents from the Intelligence Ministry were arrested in connection with Kazemi's death.

A parliamentary commission report released in November 2003 said that members of the Iranian judiciary had been holding Kazemi in custody when she was beaten, making it unlikely, according to journalists and reformist politicians, that those responsible for her death will be brought to justice.

On July 24, 2004, an Iranian court acquitted intelligence agent Mohamed Reza Aqdam Ahmadi of the "semi-intentional murder" of Kazemi. The court cited insufficient evidence.

The trial, which began on July 17, was abruptly ended the following day. Kazemi's legal team, headed by Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi, accused the court of refusing to hear witness testimony and to consider evidence accusing another prison official of delivering the fatal blow that killed Kazemi.

Ebadi said she would appeal the verdict in Iranian courts, but that if justice is denied, they will have no choice but to take the case "to international courts and the United Nations."