Iran - Appeal to future parliament on eve of elections

    MONTREAL, March 13 /CNW Telbec/ - Reporters Without Borders urges those
who win tomorrow's elections for the unicameral parliament, the eighth since
the Islamic revolution, to respect the international treaties ratified by Iran
including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which it
adopted in 1975. Press freedom is constantly being violated and eight
journalists are currently detained, making Iran the Middle East's biggest
prison for the press.
    "During the four years of the outgoing parliament, more than 100
journalists were summoned, detained, interrogated or given sentences ranging
from three months in prison to the death penalty," the press freedom
organisation said.
    "We call on the next parliament to embark on a thorough reform of the
publications law in order to decriminalize press offences and guarantee
journalists greater freedom of expression. The current law, in force since
2000, is extremely repressive and allows the government to easily censor news
media that annoy it."
    The authorities have cracked down harder on journalists since the
ultra-conservative Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's election as president in August 2005.
None of the few remaining independent daily newspapers has survived the
constant harassment by the government and the courts, and most of the other
independent publications have also disappeared.
    The latest was the women's monthly Zanan, which was suspended by the
Press Authorisation and Surveillance Commission - an offshoot of the Ministry
of Culture and Islamic Guidance - on 28 January for "offering a sombre picture
of the Islamic Republic" and "compromising its readers' mental health."
    Many government bodies monitor and regulate the media. As well as the
Press Authorisation and Surveillance Commission, which is in charge of issuing
licences, there is the High Council for National Security, which censors
journalists on a daily basis by forbidding them to broach certain issues such
as nuclear power or women's movements.
    The latest directives to the news media before the start of the election
campaign urged them to refer to "the Iranian people's great nuclear victory"
and banned them from mentioning the "election boycott calls made by certain
political tendencies."
    The judicial authorities also intervene in the work of the media. Tehran
chief prosecutor Said Mortazavi does not hesitate to telephone newspaper
editors in order to tell them what to put on their front page or forbid them
to mention certain subjects. And the government media are used to attack
journalists or the few reformist politicians who dare to give interviews to
foreign media.
    The authorities continue to ban satellite dishes, which are use to
receive Farsi-language broadcasts from outside the country. In the past two
months, the police have waged a campaign to identify homes with dishes.
    Finally, a number of foreign reporters have been able to get visas to
cover the parliamentary elections, but university academics, intellectuals and
Iranian journalists have been warned not to talk to them.

    Click here to read the chapter on Iran in this year's annual report on
press freedom worldwide, which Reporters Without Borders issued on 13 February
( . Iran is also
on the updated list of "Internet Enemies" which the organisation issued
yesterday ( .

For further information:

For further information: Katherine Borlongan, secretary general,
Reporters Without Borders, (514) 521-4111, Cell: (514) 258-4208, Fax: (514)

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