February 26, 2003

Iranian net journalist freed Posted: 26 February 2003 By: Elizabeth Croad

A Persian internet journalist has been released from prison (22 February 2003) following extensive lobbying by an international press freedom group.

Mohamed Mohsen Sazegara was arrrested by plain clothed security officers at his home on 18 February after he posted an article on the web site www.alliran.net.

The article called for constitutional reform in Iran and criticised Ayatollah Khamenei, the leader of the Islamic Republic. Mr Sazegara also wrote that Iranian public feeling was 'being held hostage to the decisions of six hard-line clerics on the Guardian Council'.

The so-called religious 'hardliners' are members of a new commission, set up by Iran's Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution, to monitor and report what they consider to be illegal web sites to the telecommunications ministry.

Earlier this year (2003), Iranian intelligence minister Ali Yunessi accused a number of web sites of publishing rumours and disinformation about the government and its officials.

Freedom of expression on the internet has been under attack from the regime since several newspapers were forced to close down in 2000. Reformists then set up their own web sites such as alliran.net and emrooz.org in an attempt to put out uncensored news to the Iranian populace.

"Iranians like to express themselves, and they could no longer do that via the print media, so web sites became a good means of doing so," Virginie Locussol of Reporters Sans Frontieres told dotJournalism.

Reporters Sans Frontieres, which publishes its web site in several languages, including Persian, has established good relations with the Iranian people and believes that its lobbying helped to influence the decision to release the journalist.



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