Government threat to ban Association of Iranian Journalists



    MONTREAL, June 26 /CNW Telbec/ - Systematic harassment of the Association
of Iranian Journalists by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's government took a
new turn on 24 June when labour minister Mohammad Jahromi threatened to
dissolve the organisation.
    "This is yet another attempt by the Iranian authorities to silence those
who defend free expression in Iran," Reporters Without Borders said. "It is
vital that journalists should be able to meet, form unions and practice their
profession freely. We urge the authorities to allow the Association of Iranian
Journalists to continue operating."
    In a 24 June letter to the association, the labour minister said it was
"illegal" and could be closed down soon. The authorities have been pressing
for the removal of the association's executive committee - which has been in
place since 2006 - on the grounds of alleged procedural irregularities in the
voting held during its general assemblies.
    The association's officials have also been pressured to include
pro-government journalists in its decision-making bodies.
    The association's spokesperson, Mashalah Shamassolvaezin, told Reporters
Without Borders that "several letters were sent to the Iranian authorities to
try to resolve these problems and find a legal way to correct the flaws in the
statutes, but no answer was received." The association also filled a petition
before an administrative court in an attempt to maintain the existing
executive committee, but it was rejected in April.
    Created in 1997 at the start of reformist President Mohammad Khatami's
term of office, the association currently has 4,000 members. Several
pro-government journalists tried unsuccessfully to take control in August
2006. This independent body, the only national organisation defending
journalists, has since then been in open conflict with the Ahmadinejad
government.
    The Iranian authorities have been hounding civil society since 2005 and
dozens of organisations have been banned. The interior ministry tried in
August 2006 to ban the Defenders of Human Rights Centre, which 2003 Nobel
Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi helped to found and currently heads. The
centre plays a key role in defending free expression in Iran.




For further information:

For further information: Katherine Borlongan, secretary general,
Reporters Without Borders, (514) 521-4111, Cell: (514) 258-4188, Fax: (514)
521-7771, rsfcanada@rsf.org

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