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Iran


-  Area: 1,648,000 sq.km.
-  Population: 68,070,000
-  Language: Persian
-  Type of state: Islamic republic
-  Head of state: Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (Supreme Guide)
-  Head of government: President Mohammad Khatami

Iran - Annual Report 2004


The regime stepped up its campaign against the press in 2003 with the arrest of 43 journalists. A Canadian-Iranian photojournalist, Zahra Kazemi, was also murdered and the investigation of her death became part of the power struggle between reformists and hardliners in the regime.

Iran remains in a dramatic and paradoxical press freedom situation. It is the biggest prison for journalists in the Middle East, with harsh censorship but also a prolific and vigorous written press that is clearly helping the growth of civil society. This press mirrors the split between the regime’s reformists and hardliners, who are part of a unique regime headed by the hardline Supreme Guide of the Republic, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and a reformist president, Mohammad Khatami, who does not have much power.
The hardline press, inspired by Islamic revolution and backing Khamenei, coexists with the reformist newspapers, which emerged in 1997 after President Khatami was elected. There is no opposition media in the traditional sense but genuine debate goes on between the two sides.
All written material is closely monitored, especially by the Supreme National Security Council (chaired by Khatami but controlled by the hardliners) which each week sends all newspapers a list of banned subjects, such as (in 2003) the 1999 student demonstrations, resumption of talks with the United States, the murder of photojournalist Zahra Kazemi and anything about nuclear weapons agreements. But reporting what Iranian politicians say about these topics is sometimes possible. However, any discussion of them is strictly forbidden. Many papers, including hardline ones, have been suspended by the Council.
The bane of the reformist press is Judge Said Mortazavi, who is under the orders of the all-powerful head of the judiciary, Abbas Ali Alizadeh, who has been assigned by the Supreme Guide to get stamp out press freedom. Mortazavi was named chief prosecutor of Teheran on 20 May 2003 after long being head of court no.1410, known as "the press court" and notorious for its suspension of dozens of newspapers since April 2000.
In 2003, he suspended many papers and also imprisoned journalists, who were often tried in secret and held for months in solitary confinement, as the head of a visiting UN working party, Louis Joinet, and the UN Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, Ambeyi Ligabo, both noted. Journalists called for Mortazavi’s dismissal on 8 August.
In February, supreme court judge Ayatollah Mohammad Sadegh al-Essehagh ruled that the law used since 2000 to shut down nearly 100 newspapers was illegal. As well as being harassed by the judiciary, the press was targeted by the intelligence ministry, which summoned more than 30 journalists for questioning during the year. Some journalists were very often only freed from jail conditionally, were subject to heavy pressure and threatened with reimprisonment to complete the rest of their sentence.
Tension increased with the death on 10 July of Canadian-Iranian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi, who had been jailed in Teheran’s Evin prison after being arrested for taking pictures of prisoners’ families outside the notorious jail. The case, which the authorities first tried to cover up, showed the world how the justice system operates in Iran and revealed the conditions of detention of political prisoners.
The investigation, entrusted to the criminal branch of Mortazavi’s office, also showed the fierce hostility between the reformists and hardliners. An intelligence ministry agent was accused of murdering her by the justice ministry in a bid to absolve Mortazavi, who was strongly suspected of involvement in the killing. Impunity seems likely to win the day once again, as in the case of a number of journalists and intellectuals murdered in 1998.

A journalist killed

Canadian-Iranian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi was arrested on 23 June 2003 as she was taking pictures of prisoners’ families outside the Evin prison north of Teheran. She was beaten in detention, fell into a coma and on 27 June was taken to the city’s Baghiatollah Hospital, where she died, officially on 10 July. After trying to cover up the cause of death, the authorities, in the person of Vice-President Ali Abtahi, admitted on 16 July that she had been "beaten."
Her body was hastily buried on 22 July in the southern town of Shiraz, despite her mother, who lives in Iran, asking for the body to be sent to Canada. She admitted on 30 July being pressured to allow burial in Iran. Canada has insisted the body be handed over to Kazemi’s Canadian son Stephan, as he has requested.
Some members of parliament accused judiciary of being responsible for Kazemi’s death. The culture and Islamic guidance ministry’s foreign press chief, Mohammad Hussein Khoshvaght, admitted in a letter in the media on 24 July that Teheran prosecutor Said Mortazavi had forced him to say she had died of a brain haemorrhage. Mortazavi reportedly accused him of issuing a press visa to Kazemi, who he said was a spy.
Reformist MP Mohsen Armin said Mortazavi "ordered a story to be told that she had died of a brain haemorrhage and asked her family to bury her quickly." He said she had told police who interrogated her that she had been hit on the head. Vice-President Abtahi spoke on 30 July of a "murder." The judiciary spokesman, Gholamhossein Elham, admitted on 11 August she had died after being hit on the head but said individuals, not institutions, were to blame. However, torture does not seem rare in Iranian prisons.
The criminal branch of Mortazavi’s office, headed by investigating judge Javad Esmaeli, presented its report on 22 September, clearing all state institutions of blame for Kazemi’s death and accusing an unnamed intelligence ministry agent who had interrogated her. The agent was charged with "semi-intentional" murder, implying that he hit Kazemi without intending to kill her.
The intelligence ministry, controlled by the reformists, vehemently denied one of its people was involved and threatened to reveal evidence implicating Mortazavi’s office. The power struggled between reformists and hardliners is blocking efforts to get at the truth and makes more necessary than ever an independent and impartial enquiry including international experts, as Canada has demanded. In October, lawyer Shirin Ebadi, the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize winner, agreed to represent Kazemi’s mother.

New information about journalists killed before 2003

The murder in late 1998 of a group of intellectuals and regime opponents - among them Daryush and Parvaneh Foroohar, symbolic figures of the liberal opposition, Majid Sharif, a columnist with the monthly Iran-e Farda, and writers and journalists Mohammad Mokhtari and Mohammad Jafar Pouyandeh - deeply shocked Iranians and outraged much of the reformist media. The authorities reacted by opening an investigation and in January 1999 the intelligence ministry officially admitted some its agents had been involved and announced the arrest of dozens of suspects.
Pirooz Davani, editor of the newspaper Pirooz who disappeared in late August 1998 and whose body was never found, was also among the victims. In January 2001, three intelligence ministry agents were sentenced to death and 12 others to prison terms for murdering the Foroohar couple. Three other people were acquitted. The supreme court confirmed the sentences in late January 2003. The victims’ families complained that those who ordered the killings were still free and, after a rally of 5,000 people in late November to mark the killings, they formally asked the UN Human Rights Commission to investigate.

Three journalists physically attacked

Hassan Raghifar, of the regional weekly Asan, was kidnapped by four strangers on 16 August 2003, interrogated about his work, tortured for two hours and then freed. The paper had printed articles about the arrest of journalists.
Several journalists, including Negareh Babakhani of the daily Hambastegi, were beaten by police and civilian activists during student demonstrations in June.
Freelance journalist Peyman Pakmehr, was attacked and kidnapped on 2 July by four Islamist militiamen after he had sent a story to a foreign-based Iranian radio station. He returned home two days later.

43 journalists imprisoned

Akbar Ganji, of the daily Sobh-e Emrooz, was arrested on 22 April 2000 after appearing before the press court. He was accused of revealing details of the murder of intellectuals and regime opponents in late 1998 and of writing articles supporting dissident cleric Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri, under house arrest since 1989.
He was also accused of taking part in a Berlin conference, held in April 2000 to discuss reforms in Iran, that was considered anti-Islamic by the authorities. At one hearing, he said he had been tortured in prison. He was sentenced to 10 years in jail on 13 January 2001. In May that year it was reduced on appeal to six months, but on 15 July, the supreme court cancelled the reduction because of supposed technical errors and imposed a six-year jail sentence. Until 2003, Ganji was allowed out of prison several times for a few days after posting high sums as bail. In July 2003, his family voiced concern about his health and said he had been refused medical care. He was hospitalised in Teheran in late November and released on medical grounds on 23 December.
Hassan Yussefi Eshkevari, a theologian and contributor to the monthly Iran-e Farda, was arrested on 5 August 2000 and sent to Teheran’s Evin prison after his home had been searched. He had gone to Europe in April to attend the Berlin conference and get treatment for his diabetes.
At his trial, held in secret before the special religious court from 7 to 15 October that year, he was accused of undermining national security, defaming the authorities, undermining the reputation of the clergy and of being a "mohareb" ("fighter against God"). On 12 October 2002, he was called before the court and told he had been sentenced to seven years in prison - four years for saying that wearing the veil and other Islamic dress codes for women had cultural and historic roots in Iran and were not a necessity for Islam, one year for attending the Berlin conference and two years for "spreading false news."
Behrooz Gheranpayeh, head of the National Institute of Public Opinion and a journalist with the now-closed daily paper Nowrooz, was arrested on 16 October 2002 and sent to Evin prison, accused of spying and collaborating with the Mujahideen exiled armed opposition. He was freed on 16 January 2003 on bail of 1.3 billion rials (130,000 euros).
Hossein Ghazian, a director of the Ayandeh public opinion institute and a journalist with Nowrooz, was arrested on 31 October 2002 and sent to Evin prison.
Abbas Abdi, another Ayandeh director, ex-editor of the daily Salam and former staff member of many reformist newspapers, was arrested at his home on 4 November 2002. Press court Judge Said Mortazavi accused Ayandeh of receiving money from the US polling firm Gallup "or from a foreign embassy."
Gheranpayeh, Gazian and Abdi were each sentenced at a secret trial on 6 January 2003 to four years in prison for "passing information to enemy countries," and six months for "making propaganda against the Islamic regime." Associates said they feared their supposed confessions meant they had been submitted to very strong psychological pressure. The sentences were confirmed on appeal in mid-April.
Alireza Eshraghi, Hamid Ghazvini and Rahman Ahmadi, of the daily Hayat-e Now, were arrested on 12 January 2003 after the paper four days earlier printed a 1937 US newspaper cartoon about the pressure exerted by then-President Franklin Roosevelt on the US Supreme Court, represented by a bearded, black-robed old man resembling the Islamic regime’s founder, the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. It was printed alongside an interview with a social science professor about "social collapse" in Iran. The paper was closed the day before they were arrested. Ghazvini was freed after a few hours, Rahman on 13 January and Eshraghi on 9 March.
Mohsen Sazgara, one of the founders of the reformist press and editor of the Internet website www.alliran.net was arrested at his home on 18 February by plainclothes police, his home and office searched and many documents seized. The previous week, he had posted on the website a call for constitutional reform and said the Iranian people had been taken hostage by the Council of Guardians, which is controlled by the hardliners, its members named by the Supreme Guide, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and which oversees elections and checks all legislation to ensure it complies with Islamic law.
He wrote that the past five years had shown the religious regime could not be reformed or be efficient and he called Khamenei a dictator. He was freed on 22 February and on 3 June banned from leaving the country. On 2 June he was summoned to the intelligence ministry, where he was told a recent law approved by the Supreme National Security Council had banned some people from speaking to foreign-based Persian-language media. The exit ban may have been punishment for his talking on foreign radio stations.
He was arrested again on 15 June during student demonstrations. His family posted bail of six billion rials (600,000 euros at the official rate) but he was not released. He has staged two hunger-strikes in prison, of 56 and 23 days, despite serious heart problems. He was charged by the Teheran revolutionary court with undermining national security and "insulting the Supreme Guide" and sentenced to a year in prison on 27 September at a secret trial. He was freed on 6 October.
Kambiz Kaveh, of the film magazines Sinema-ye Jahan, Majaleh-ye Film, Donia-ye Tasvir and Sinema-e Now, and Said Mostaghasi, of the weekly Haftehnameh-ye Sinema, were arrested at their homes on 26 February, taken away and the houses searched. They were freed on 10 April.
Mohammad Abdi, editor of the monthly Honar-e Haftom, and Amir Ezati, of the monthly Mahnameh-ye Film, were arrested on 28 February. Abdi was freed on 14 April and Amir Ezati, accused of translating and distributing in Iran Salman Rushdie’s book "Satanic Verses," on 30 June. Ezati had spent 60 days in solitary confinement.
Film music critic Yasamin Soufi was arrested on 1 March and taken to an unknown place when she answered a summons by the Teheran police’s Adareh Amaken section, which deals with "moral" offences and is close to the intelligence ministry. She was freed on 4 March, arrested again on 17 March and freed on 20 March.
Ali-Reza Jabari, a translator and freelance contributor to several independent newspapers, including Adineh, was arrested on 17 March and sentenced on 19 April to four years in prison, 253 lashes and a fine of six million rials (600 euros) for "consuming and distributing alcoholic drinks" and for "adultery and incitement to immoral acts." Such charges are routine against non-religious people. On 17 June, the sentence was reduced on appeal to three years. In fact, he was being punished for belonging to the Writers’ Association and sending material to foreign-based news websites, especially articles defending a jailed lawyer, Nasser Zarafshan.
Behzad Khorshidi, editor of the monthly Piramoon, was arrested on 29 March and taken to a secret place after being summoned by Adareh Amaken and accused of criticising the regime’s cultural policies and having links with journalist Siamak Pourzand. He was released on 13 May. He had earlier been arrested on 17 March in the same circumstances and freed a few days later.
Siamak Pourzand, often heard on US-based opposition radio stations, was arrested on 30 March and taken to Evin prison. He had been conditionally freed from jail in early December 2002, a device sometimes used by the judiciary in response to international pressure. A journalist thus freed has no official document certifying release and can be rearrested and jailed at any time.
Pourzand, also head of a Teheran cultural centre, had been arrested on 24 November 2001 and sentenced to eight years in prison in May 2002 for "undermining state security" and "having links with monarchists and counter-revolutionaries." The court said it had taken into account his confession of guilt. He had admitted all the charges and said he did not have to defend himself. His family said they were worried that psychological pressure while in prison had forced him to confess. The Teheran appeal court upheld the sentence in May 2002.
Ahmad Zeid-Abadi, of the daily Hamshahri, appeared in court on 13 April and was sent to Evin prison. He had been sentenced on appeal on 10 March to eight months in jail for "anti-regime propaganda" and five for "publishing false news." He was also banned for five years from "public and social activity," including journalism. He was freed on 6 October.
Sina Motallebi, of the reformist daily Hayat-e Now and editor of the website www.rooznegar.com, was arrested on 20 April after being summoned the previous day by Adareh Amaken, the latest of a series of summonses. After the paper was closed in January, he had revived the website and used it to defend one of the paper’s journalists, Alireza Eshraghi, who had been arrested on 11 January. The website had angered some legal officials and also reformists, who he criticised for their silence about the arrests of journalists. He was accused of "undermining national security by cultural activity." He was freed on 12 May.
Taghi Rahmani, of the weekly Omid-e Zangan, Hoda Saber, of Iran-e farda, and Reza Alijani, Iran-e farda’s editor and winner of the Reporters Without Borders - Fondation de France Prize in 2001, who had been given heavy jail sentences in May but not arrested, were detained on 14 June and accused of having secret meetings with students who had staged anti-regime demonstrations that month. They were arrested on the orders of Judge Mortazavi.
Judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Elham said on 15 October that three journalists "were serving a prison sentence" but did not say why, or where and when they were tried. They were reportedly tried in secret on 15 September and kept in solitary confinement until 30 October. In May, the Teheran revolutionary court had sentenced Rahmani to 11 years in jail, Alijani to six and Saber to 10. All three were stripped of political rights for 10 years.
Amin Bozorgian, editor of the daily Golestan-e Iran, was arrested on 15 June and accused of inciting students to revolt. He was freed a month later.
Ali Akrami, of the suspended reformist daily Nedat Eslahat, was arrested on 16 June and released on 9 July.
Ensafali Hedayat, of the daily Salam, was reporting on a demonstration at Tabriz University (northern Iran) on 16 June when he arrested by strangers who accused him of inciting students to revolt. He was freed on 14 July after three weeks in solitary confinement.
Freelance journalist Amir Teirani and Mohamed Reza Bouzeri, of the daily Golestan-e Iran, were arrested on 16 and 18 June respectively for allegedly inciting students to demonstrate. Bouzeri was freed on 20 July. Teirani, who was kept in solitary confinement and under strong psychological pressure to force him to confess to having secret documents, was released on 15 September.
Iraj Jamshidi, editor of the financial daily Asia, and his wife Saghi Baghernia, the paper’s managing editor, were arrested on 6 July for "anti-regime propaganda." The day before, the paper had printed a picture of Maryam Rajavi (wife of Massud Rajavi, the well-known leader of the People’s Mujahideen group), who was arrested in France on 17 June. Baghernia was freed on 7 July and the paper suspended.
Esmail Jamshidi, of the monthly Gardon and brother of Iraj Jamshidi, was arrested without explanation on 7 July. He was freed on 31 August.
Hossein Bastani, Vahid Pourostad and Said Razavi Faghi, of the reformist daily Yas-e no, and Shahram Mohamadi-Nia, editor of the weekly Vaght, were summoned on 11 and 12 July by Teheran prosecutor Said Mortazavi and imprisoned. Yas-e no had reported on 10 July that the intelligence ministry had ordered it not to run a series of articles about demonstrations on 9 July. Bastani and Pourostad were released on 20 July and Faghi was freed on bail on 25 September after spending nearly 80 days in solitary confinement. Mohamadi-Nia, who was accused of printing an "unsuitable" photo and article, was freed on 16 July.
Iraj Rasteghar, editor of the suspended weekly Tavana, was arrested on 12 July as part of legal proceedings against the paper. He was freed on bail on 16 July.
Freelance journalist Arash Salehi was arrested the same day in the street in Teheran and released a month later.
Hossein Farrokhi, editor of the monthly Sinema-Teatre, was arrested on 15 July and accused of printing pictures of women that did not conform to the Islamic republic’s dress code. He was freed on bail on 17 July.
Abolgasem Golbaf, editor of the monthly Gozaresh, was arrested on 20 July for "anti-regime propaganda" and "publishing false news." He was released on 9 October on bail of 400 million rials (40,000 euros).
Arash Noporshian (cartoonist) and Mohammad-Amin Golbaf and Nader Karimi (journalists), of the monthly Gozaresh, were arrested on 26 July after failing to pay money to the judiciary for unknown reasons. They were freed on 3 August.
Ali Reza Ahmadi, of the financial daily Asia, was summoned and jailed on 28 July in Evin prison, where he was put in solitary confinement.
Behzad Zarinpour, editor of Asia, was summoned by a Teheran court on 7 September and a few hours later plainclothes agents searched his home. His family had no news of him for a week until on 13 September officials announced he was in jail. He was freed on 5 October.

Three journalists imprisoned before 2003 were freed

Emadoldin Baghi, of the daily Fath, was freed on 6 February 2003. He had been arrested on 29 May 2000 after a hearing before the press court. On 17 July that year he was sentenced to five years in prison for "undermining national security" and "spreading false news" in a September 1999 editorial in the daily paper Neshat in which he advocated a modern approach by Islam to the death penalty. The Revolutionary Guards (Pasdaran) and former intelligence minister Ali Fallahian had filed complaints against him. His sentence was cut to three years by an appeal court on 23 October 2000. In early June 2003, he was summoned by a Teheran court and told he could not leave the country.
Bijan Safsari, editor of the daily Seda-ye Edalat and owner of the daily Azad, was freed on 28 May 2003 after being arrested in late November 2002. Azad had been suspended in July 2002 and Safsari accused by the press court of continuing to work as a journalist on Seda-ye Edalat after Azad was suspended. He was stripped of his civil rights.
Behrooz Gheranpayeh, head of the National Institute of Public Opinion and a journalist with the now-closed daily paper Nowrooz, was freed on 16 January 2003 on bail of 1.3 billion rials (130,000 euros). He had been arrested on 16 October 2002 and sent to Evin prison, accused of spying and collaborating with the Mujahideen exiled armed opposition.

A cyber-dissident imprisoned

Javad Tavaf, a student leader and the editor of the popular news website Rangin Kaman, which for a year had been criticising the Guide of the Islamic Revolution, was arrested at his home on 16 January 2003 by people who said they were from the military judiciary, which later denied it had arrested him. He was freed two days later.

Three journalists arrested

Issa Saharkhiz, editor of the monthly Aftab, was arrested on 15 July 2003 and freed on bail two days later. He was rearrested on 27 July and then freed the next day after being questioned about corruption. He was summoned again on 26 August by the Teheran prosecutor’s office and questioned about statements supposedly made by Iraj Jamshidi, editor of Asia, who had been arrested in early July. The hardline paper Resalat accused Saharkhiz of corruption on 25 August.
Mohsen Mandegari, political editor of the hardline daily Entekhab, was summoned by the Teheran revolutionary court on 7 October and imprisoned until the next day. Editor Mohammad Mehdi Faghihi was summoned at the same time but only held for a few hours. They were arrested after publishing an article about the importance to the regime of signing an agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Harassment and obstruction

The reformist daily Bahar was suspended on 11 January 2003 by the Teheran press court a few days after reporting shady stock exchange dealings by the firm Al-Zahra, three of whose shareholders are prominent politicians - former President Hashemi Rafsanjani, former judiciary chief Ayatollah Yazdi and Ahmad Janati, head of the council of the Revolutionary Guards. The paper had been suspended on 8 August 2000 and did not reappear until December 2002.
Hamid Ghazvini, Hossin Moslem and Ahmad Shams, of the daily Hayat-e Now, were summoned for the third time by the religious court on 16 January and interrogated, as earlier, for nearly seven hours. Two other staff members, Mohsen Mosahafi and Sayah Rezai, were also summoned and lengthily interrogated.
Akram Didari, of the daily Hamshahri, was summoned on 19 January by the religious court and questioned about his writings.
The daily Hamshahri was suspended on 23 January for 10 days for refusing to print a right-of-response article by Ali-Reza Mahjoub, secretary-general of the government controlled Workers’ Club trade union. The paper is a favourite target and distribution had already been banned outside the capital on the pretext that it was a Teheran paper. It reappeared five days later.
Film press journalists Sepideh Abroaviz, Narges Vishkai, Assal Samari, Yasamin Soufi and Mehrnaz Teherani were interrogated at the end of February by Adareh Amaken and accused of "criticising the regime’s cultural policy" and "having contacts with" journalist Siamak Pourzand. The head of Teheran’s security forces also said he found "immoral CDs" in their homes.
Narges Mohammadi, of the weekly Peyam-e Hajar, was given a one-year suspended prison sentence on 9 March for giving interviews to the media while her husband, Taghi Rahmani, of the weekly Omid-e-Zangan, was in prison. She had been summoned on 4 November 2002 by the revolutionary court for "disturbing the peace. She is reportedly under new legal investigation.
Shaghaiegh Abolfazeli, of the monthly Sinema-ye Jahan, was arrested on 7 April for unknown reasons and freed a few hours later. She said she had been roughed up and insulted.
Masomeh Alinejad, of the daily Hambastegi, Mohammad Naimpour, editor of the daily Yas-e no, Reza Monsaref, editor of the fortnightly Ava-ye Maku, the editor of the daily Tosseh, editor Mohammed Mirdamadi of the daily Nowrouz, and Mohsen Sazgara, editor of the news website Alliran, were summoned by the press court in mid-April.
Eleven journalists, including many from the film press, were summoned in May by Adareh Amaken and accused of possessing and selling "immoral" videos. They were Golamreza Moussavi, editor of the monthly Sinema-ye Jahan, Ali Moalem, editor of the monthly Donya-ye Tasvir, Feridon Jerani, editor of the weekly Sinema, Payam Fazlinejad, of the monthly Gozaresh-e Film, Mohammad Hadi Karimi, editor de Sinema, Alireza Bazel, journalist and translator with the daily Hayat-e Now, Houshang Golmakani, of the monthly Film, Nushabeh Amiri (editor) and Houshang Asadi (journalist) of Gozaresh-e Film, film critic Khosrow Dehghan, president of the Writers’ Association, and Ibrahim Nabavi, a contributor to several reformist papers.
The Supreme National Security Council, headed by President Mohammad Khatami, banned the press at the end of May from publishing a letter sent by more than 100 reformist MPs to the Supreme Guide demanding reforms and warning that the regime would be in danger if he continued to block them. They said most Iranians were unhappy or disappointed, most educated people remained silent or left the country, as had most of its financial reserves, and that the country was entirely surrounded by foreign forces.
No Iranian newspaper printed the letter, which was made public on 24 May, and it could only be read for a few hours on the reformist website Rouydad and the site of the student news agency ISNA before it was taken down. It can now only be read on foreign-based Persian-language sites.
The daily Kayhan, the main Islamist organ, did not appear on newsstands on 10 June, a few days after new Teheran prosecutor Said Mortazavi ordered it suspended for a day for calling members of the reformist-majority parliament "swine." The Kayhan group, which puts out dozens of hardline publications, is controlled by the Supreme Guide and is close to the secret police.
The Supreme National Security Council banned the press on 12 June from the Teheran University campus, where new demonstrations were taking place. Several journalists from the ILNA and ISNA news agencies, including ISNA director Abolfazl Fateh, were beaten, and some had their cameras seized and were detained for a few hours. The cameras were not returned. The press had been able to report on the protests fairly easily until then.
Dozens of satellite receiver dishes were seized in Teheran in early July, especially in neighbourhoods where there had been unrest. During the 10-20 June demonstrations, US-based Persian-language satellite TV stations (most controlled by monarchists) had urged people to take to the streets. The regime wanted to block new protests on 9 July, the anniversary of the brutally-crushed student protests in 1999. Selling and possessing dishes is officially forbidden but the authorities say there are several :million in the country. The regime jams Persian-language and other foreign-based TV stations.

Between mid-July and mid-August, Reporters Without Borders recorded more than 50 cases of journalists being summoned by legal officials.

Javad Alizadeh, cartoonist on the monthly Tanz, was summoned on 13 July by the Teheran prosecutor’s office.
Mortaza Lotfi, of the daily Kar va Karegar, was summoned by a Teheran court on 27 July to answer 17 formal complaints.
Mostafa Karazi, managing editor of the daily Sada-ye Edalat, was summoned on 28 July and charged on the basis of a complaint by the Teheran prosecutor.
Mahnaz Hovida, editor of the regional weekly Raizan Javan, was summoned on 30 July by Teheran prosecutor Said Mortazavi.
Ahmad Nabavi, managing editor of the weekly Nada-ye Eslahat, was banned from working as a journalist for three years by a court in Arak on 3 August and fined 7 million rials (700 euros). Editor Ma’soud Moradi Bastani was given a suspended six-month jail sentence, a five-year ban on working as a journalist, a fine of a million rials (100 euros) and six lashes. One of the paper’s journalists, Moharam Berati, was similarly banned for three years and fined 80,000 rials (eight euros). All three were accused of libel and "publishing lies."
The weekly Nahmeh-ye Ghazvin was banned on 9 August for "encouraging depravation and publication of lies." Its first issue had also been banned and editor Ali Shahrouzi accused of "damaging the reputation of political and religious figures and undermining official organisations."
The same day, four people were each given a year’s suspended prison sentence for publishing two books about women. They were Banafsheh Samghis, who reported the books in the press, their publisher and the two women authors.
Abdollah Nasseri, head of the national news agency IRNA, was summoned by a Teheran court on 12 August for publishing a speech by Teheran MP Mohsen Armin about the murder of photo-journalist Zahra Kazemi.
Ali Reza Alavitabar, who helps run the website Emrouz, was summoned by a Teheran court on 13 August.
Mostafa Kovakabian, managing editor of the reformist daily Mardomsalari, was summoned and charged on 17 August on three counts concerning articles about the Kazemi murder and about Hossein Khomeini, grandson of the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini..
Gholi Shikhi, managing editor of the reformist daily Tosseh, was summoned four times by a Teheran court on 18 August for four different matters.
The same day, Mostafa Nassehi, editor of the suspended weekly Tabarestan, was summoned and convicted by a Teheran court for "anti-regime propaganda, insulting regime officials and publishing false news" after the paper reported on flaws in the legal system and on torture in prison.
Amir Reza Nourizadeh, who writes for the newspapers Mosigi Magam and Sinema-ye Jahan, was ordered from 22 August to report daily to the police. The same day, Mohammad Javad Roh, of Yas-e no, was summoned and then freed on bail.
Mohammad Naimpour, managing editor of the daily Yas-e no, was summoned by the Teheran prosecutor’s office on 27 August to answer 25 complaints filed by the Revolutionary Guards, the prison administration and the Teheran prosecutor for libelling the authorities, undermining national security and publishing anti-regime propaganda. He was freed on bail of 700 million rials (70,000 euros).
Mohammad Javad Roh, of the daily Yas-e no, was summoned and interrogated by the Teheran revolutionary court on 28 August for "insulting the regime" and "publishing false news." He was freed the same day on bail of 100 million rials (10,000 euros) pending trial.
Several journalists, including Amir Reza Nourizadeh, of the monthlies Musighi-ye Magham and Sinema-ye Jahan, were summoned by Adareh Amaken at the end of August.
Mostafa Sabti, editor of the weekly Gorgan Emrouz, was sentenced by a court in the northern town of Gorgan on 1 September to 91 days in prison for publishing "lies that disturb the peace" and libelling the authorities, plus a further four months suspended for three years. He remained free pending his appeal.
Lotfollah Missami, editor of the monthly Cheshmeh Andaz-e Iran, was summoned by a Teheran court on 6 September for publishing "lies that disturb the peace" and for libel. He was released on bail of one billion rials (100,000 euros).
Eskandar Deldam, of the suspended weekly Tabarestan, was summoned and detained by the Teheran prosecutor’s office on 21 September after an article poking fun at the state radio and TV, which is directly controlled by the Supreme Guide. He was freed the same day.
Keyvan Zargari, cartoonist for the daily Yas-e no, was summoned on 27 September and freed the same day on bail.
Fariba Davoudi Mohajer, a contributor to the reformist press, was given a three-year suspended prison sentence on 28 September by the Teheran revolutionary court for subversion and anti-regime propaganda for her writings and because she had signed a petition calling for the release of political prisoners.
The managing editors of the reformist dailies Yas-e no, Sharq, Hambastegi and Baharaneh were summoned by a Teheran court between 1 and 7 October on the basis of complaints by prosecutor Said Mortazavi.
The weekly Avay-e Kordestan was banned in mid-October by a revolutionary court in the Kurdish province of Sanandaj.
Mohammad Naimpour, managing editor of the daily Yas-e no, was summoned by a Teheran court on 18 October.
The same day, Elias Hazrti, managing editor of the daily E’temad, was summoned by a Teheran court for "undermining national unity."
Gholam Reza Sadeghian, of the daily Kayhan, was summoned by a Teheran court on 23 October for libel and "publishing lies." He was freed on bail the same day after interrogation. He had written an article about trafficking in used medical supplies that had infected 80 people.
Manuchehr Tavakoli, editor of the monthly Niki, was convicted by the Teheran revolutionary court on 29 October of publishing "immoral" articles and photos.
Issa Sahakhiz, editor of the monthly Aftab, was summoned by a Teheran court on 5 November for an article allegedly insulting the late Ayatollah Khomeini. It was based on a translation of an article in an Israeli paper about the 1979 Islamic revolution.
Majid Ghassemi Fizabadi, managing editor of the daily Nassim-e Sabah, was convicted by a Teheran court on 10 November of libel and "publishing lies disturbing the peace" by printing a report on the Zahra Kazemi murder by parliament’s Article 90 Commission.
The weekly Aban was suspended by the press supervisory commission on 18 November for "irregular publication." The paper was one of 20 suspended in 2000 in a crackdown on the reformist press. It was allowed to reappear in 2001. Its most recent issue had contained two articles about the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize, which went to Iranian lawyer Shirin Ebadi.



Introduction North Africa and the Middle East - Annual report 2004
Algeria
Bahrain
Egypt
Iraq
Israel
Jordan
Kuwait
Lebanon
Libya
Morocco
Palestinian Authority
Qatar
Saudi Arabia
Sudan
Syria
Tunisia
United Arab Emirates
Yemen

by continent
2004 Americas Annual Report
2004 Asia Annual Report
2004 Africa Annual Report
2004 North Africa and the Middle East Annual Report
2004 Europe Annual Report

Annual report 2003