Iran - Two journalists freed on bail, two others get prison sentences



    MONTREAL, March 3 /CNW Telbec/ - Reporters Without Borders welcomes the
release of Abolfazl Abedini Nasr of the weekly Bahar Khozestan on 18 February
and Said Matinpour, a contributor to the weekly Yarpagh, on 26 February, but
condemns the prison sentences passed two days ago on journalists Bahaman
Ahamadi Amoee and Parnaz Azima, and the monthly Asar Panjshanbeh's suspension
by the Press Surveillance and Authorisation Commission.
    "Good news never comes without bad news in the Middle East's biggest
prison for the press," Reporters Without Borders said. "We can only welcome
the release of two journalists but we deplore the fact that excessive amounts
of bail had to paid. The Iranian government is unable to take criticism and
still sees the right to news and information as a threat to national security.
We urge the authorities to withdraw all the charges against these journalists
and to rescind Asar Panjshanbeh's suspension."
    Nasr was freed on 18 February after payment of 50 million toumen
(50,000 euros) in bail. He had been held since 13 November in a prison in
Ahvaz (1,200 km south of Tehran, in Khozestan province), where a revolutionary
court gave him a one-year sentence on 24 December on charges of "inciting
workers to rebellion" and "relations with foreign media" after he covered a
workers' demonstration.
    Matinpour was released from Tehran's Evin prison on 26 February following
payment of 500 million toumen (500,000 euros) in bail. He had been arrested at
his home in the northwestern city of Zanjan on 28 May 2007 on a charge of
"activity against national security." Both his family and Nasr's had to borrow
heavily or mortgage property to raise the bail money.
    On 1 March, a Tehran appeal court confirmed a suspended sentence of six
months in prison for Amoee, who works for the daily Sarmayeh. The sentence,
for which there is two-year period of probation, was passed on 26 September by
a revolutionary court in Tehran for "activity against national security" and
"publicity against the Islamic Republic" following his arrest on 22 June while
covering a demonstration in the capital. The judge in charge of the case
criticised him for signing a petition for the release of Jill Caroll, a US
journalist held hostage in Iraq in 2006.
    Also on 1 March, the same Tehran court passed a one-year prison sentence
in absentia on Azima, a journalist with US and Iranian dual nationality who
works for Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty, after finding her guilty of
"propaganda against the regime" and "publicity against the interests of the
Islamic Republic" Azima's passport was confiscated when arrived in Iran in
January 2007 to visit her family. She was finally able to leave the country on
18 September.
    The Press Surveillance and Authorisation Commission suspended Asar
Panjshanbeh for "publishing articles insulting religions and the Islamic veil"
and "attacking Islamic values." The monthly has been published for the past
years.




For further information:

For further information: Katherine Borlongan, secretary general,
Reporters Without Borders, (514) 521-4111, Cell: (514) 258-4208, Fax: (514)
521-7771, rsfcanada@rsf.org

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