MONTREAL, March 6 /CNW Telbec/ - Reporters Without Borders today urged
support for women journalists, activists, bloggers and Internet users speaking
out for their rights in the face of "increasing repression" by governments and
threats from religious groups.
"The imprisonment, torture, prosecution and death threats against them
must be exposed," the worldwide press freedom organisation said. "It is
unacceptable that today, in 2008, people can still be jailed or threatened
with death for raising this rights issue."
Many women are now fighting for freedom of expression in Iran by using
the Internet to dodge censorship. The government has arrested more than 40 of
them over the past year, including 32 journalists and bloggers, for
demonstrating in Teheran for their rights and then continuing their campaign
online as cyber-feminists in blogs and news websites. Some spent a few weeks
in prison and all are currently free but still facing charges. The
intelligence and security ministry called cyber-feminists "subversives in the
pay of foreigners" in April last year.
The Iranian feminist monthly Zanan was suspended on 28 January this year
for supposedly "damaging the minds" of its readers and more than 30 of its
staff lost their jobs. Parvin Ardalan, editor of the website Wechange, which
defends women's rights in Iran, was arrested on 3 March as she was boarding a
flight for Stockholm to receive the 2007 Olof Palme human rights prize. Her
passport was confiscated on the orders of the Teheran chief prosecutor. She
was also arrested in June 2006 after organising a peaceful protest to demand
abolition of discriminatory laws against women in Iran.
In Afghanistan, a man, Sayed Perwiz Kambakhsh, has been condemned to
death for defending women's rights. He was arrested on 27 October last year in
the north of the country and accused of "blasphemy" and "insulting Islam."
After persistent pressure from the national Council of Mullahs and local
authorities, he was sentenced to death on 22 January this year after a secret
trial with no lawyer present to defend him. The 23-year-old journalism student
at Balkh University is a reporter for the paper Jahan-e-Naw ("New World") and
had downloaded an article from an Iranian website that cited extracts from the
Koran about women. He did not write the article.
The most conservative Afghans think too many women appear on local TV and
are pushing for a law to force them to wear religious garb. Men claiming to be
Talibans made death threats against three women journalists in Mazar-e-Charif
in February 2008, warning that if they continued to appear on TV members of
their families would be kidnapped. The women were unable to get protection
from the police, who have still not arrested anyone for the murder last June
of Zakia Zaki, owner of Radio Peace, which exposed abuses against women.
Bangladeshi writer and feminist Taslima Nasreen has been living under
police guard in India since last November after deaths threats for denouncing
violations of women's rights committed in the name of Islam. French President
Nicolas Sarkozy wanted to present her with the Simone de Beauvoir feminist
award when he visited India this January but did not so to avoid trouble for
officials under pressure from powerful Muslim groups.
Egyptian writer Nawal Saadawi, founder of the Arab Women's Solidarity
Association, has also been threatened and hounded by the law and fled her
country to take refuge in Europe.
Argentine journalist Claudia Acuna, founder of an online news agency, La
Vaca, and a related daily, MU, was targeted by police checking the ID of
everyone visiting her house last July after she wrote a book claiming official
involvement in prostitution in Buenos Aires.
For further information:
For further information: Katherine Borlongan, secretary general,
Reporters Without Borders, (514) 521-4111, Cell: (514) 258-4208, Fax: (514)