Iran - Courts pass jail sentences on journalists for covering demonstrations



    MONTREAL, June 13 /CNW Telbec/ - Reporters Without Borders today
condemned judicial harassment of journalists who cover demonstrations. Four
have been tried by revolutionary tribunals in recent weeks, three of them
receiving prison sentences. Others are awaiting trial or the announcement of
the court's verdict.
    "We are dismayed by these sentences," the press freedom organisation
said. "These journalists just did their duty to report the news and have been
convicted for political reasons. If there is a political activity in Iran, the
media must cover it. But once again, brute force is the government's only
response."
    A revolutionary tribunal in the city of Sanandaj, in Iran's Kurdish
northwestern region, sentenced Ejlal Ghavami of Payam-e mardom-e Kurdistan (a
weekly that has been closed by the authorities since 2004) to three years in
prison on 9 June for "inciting revolt" and "undermining national security."
Freelance journalist Said Saedi was sentenced to two and a half years in
prison on the same charges. The same tribunal sentenced Roya Toloui, the
editor of the newspaper Resan, to six months in prison on 22 May. Her
newspapers has been closed since 2005.
    All three journalists were arrested while covering a peaceful
demonstration outside the prefect's office in Sanandaj on 30 July 2005 and
were held for several months before being freed on bail. Tolui is now abroad.
Saedi and Ghavami still live in Iran. They say that whenever they have tried
to work for a newspaper since 2005, its editors have been harassed by the
intelligence agencies.
    Condemning their conviction and sentences, their lawyer, Nemat Ahamdi,
told Reporters Without Borders: "They are journalists, and it is normal for
journalists to be out on the streets doing their job and going to places where
there are demonstrations. This conviction is unacceptable and we are going to
appeal."
    Aso Salah of the weekly Disgah has meanwhile been summoned to appear
before the Sanandaj court on 16 June. He was arrested by intelligence
operatives on 8 March after covering an International Women's Day
demonstration, and was released on 18 March after paying 100 million toumen
(85,000 euros) in bail.
    In Tehran, Bahaman Ahmadi Amoee of the daily Sarmayeh was summoned and
tried on 6 June by the revolutionary court's 13th division on charges of
"participating in an illegal demonstration," "undermining national security"
and "publicity against the Islamic Republic." The verdict is pending. He was
arrested along with two other journalists while covering a feminist movement's
demonstration against "sexual apartheid in Iran" on 22 June 2006.
    Kia Jahani of Kurdistan TV, who was arrested for no clear reason in the
city of Marivan on 24 February, was freed on bail at the start of May.
    President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Ayatollah Khamenei are both on the
Reporters Without Borders list of the world's 34 worst press freedom
predators.




For further information:

For further information: Emily Jacquard, Directrice générale, Reporters
Without Borders, (514) 521-4111, Cell: (514) 258-4208, Fax: (514) 521-7771,
rsfcanada@rsf.org

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