February 19, 2003

A journalist arrested for having criticised the supreme GuideIran | 19.02.2003

On 18 February the journalist Mohamed Mohsen Sazegara was arrested at home. This detention came a few days after the publication on his website, www.alliran.net, of an article in which he criticised the Guide of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Khamenei.

'While a delegation from the United Nations Commission on Human Rights led by Louis Joinet is touring Iran, this arrest shows, once again, that the regime's hardliners are ignoring pressing human rights demands from the international community' said Robert Ménard, secretary-general of Reporters Without Borders. The organisation is also concerned that the members of the UN delegation may be closely monitored and may not yet have been allowed to visit the jailed journalists. Reporters Without Borders has asked the head of Iran's judiciary, Ayatollah Mahmoud Shahroudi, to immediately release Mohamed Mohsen Sazegara and nine other journalists including Alireza Eshraghi who has been jailed since the beginning of the year.

On 18 February, early in the afternoon, Mohamed Mohsen Sazegara, manager of the information site www.alliran.net, was arrested at his home by plainclothes security officers. His home, then his office, were searched. Many documents were confiscated. In the week of 10 February, the journalist had published on his site an article in which he called for constitutional reform. He also wrote that the Iranian popular will was 'being held hostage to the decisions of six hard-line clerics on the Guardian Council' (a body dominated by hardliners and whose members are appointed by the Guide who supervises elections and ratifies laws). 'The experience of the past five years shows that the Islamic establishment cannot be reformed. It cannot be efficient,' wrote the journalist who also described the power of the Guide of the Republic Ayatollah Khamenei as 'dictatorial'. Mohamed Mohsen Sazegara was the editor of publications today shut down : Jameh, Neshat and Tous.

Since 12 January 2002, Alireza Eshraghi, a Hayat-é-No journalist, has been jailed at Evine prison (Teheran). The journalist's mother, Mehri Zayanderodi Zadeh, is very worried and sent a letter to President Khatami on 17 January stating that 'her son has fallen victim to covert settling of scores.' She insists on the fact that the journalist, now jailed for over forty days in an individual cell, has lost much weight and is suicidal. She also complains of unkept promises made by the interrogators of Alireza Eshraghi, according to whom he would be released on bail. According to her, the journalist was deprived of the presence of barristers during his interrogation.'Save my son,' she concluded.

The journalist's arrest and the closure of Hayat-é-No came after the publication of a caricature on 8 January past. The latter represented a white-bearded old man wearing a long black cloak sitting on the ground with the thumb of a giant hand pressing on his head (and the caption 'Roosevelt' on the sleeve). The caricature illustrated a meeting with a social science professor on the topic of social collapse. The drawing, taken from an official American site, was published in 1937 in an American newspaper to illustrate President Roosevelt's pressure on the US Supreme Court.

Reporters Without Borders defends imprisoned journalists and press freedom throughout the world, as well as the right to inform the public and to be informed, in accordance with Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Reporters Without borders has nine national sections (in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom), representatives in Abidjan, Bangkok, Buenos Aires, Istanbul, Montreal, Moscow, New York, Tokyo and Washington and more than a hundred correspondents worldwide.


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