Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Mohsen Mandegari, chief political journalist at Entekhab Detained in Oct 03

Censorship bites deeper : imprimer: "Censorship bites deeper

Reporters Without Borders (Reporters Sans Frontières) has called for an end to the advance censorship imposed on the press by the national security council and condemned continuing arrests and questioning of journalists

Mohsen Mandegari, chief political journalist at the daily Entekhab (The Choice), was summoned by the Teheran revolutionary court on 7 October and detained until the following day, his editor-in-chief Mohamad Mehdi Faghihi said. He too was summoned and detained for several hours on the same day. The arrest of Mandegari followed the publication of an article discussing what was at stake for the regime in the signing of a protocol with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). All discussion of this subject is banned by censorship imposed by the national security council (the body that rules on all state security issues).

The arrest of a journalist working for a moderate conservative daily is somewhat unusual. It sheds some more light on the advance censorship system set up by the national security council, headed by the reformist President Mohammad Khatami but mainly made up of conservatives. Every week the council sends all newspapers a list of banned subjects, such as student demonstrations in 1999, the resumption of dialogue with the United States, the death of Canadian photo-journalist Zahra Kazemi and more recently anything connected with the signing of the IAEA. It is occasionally possible to report on facts or statements by Iranian political figures on these subjects but all analysis of the subjects is forbidden.

Entekhab had revealed that parliament and the presidential body officially responsible for the signing of the protocol were excluded from the process in favour of an ad hoc committee set up by the Supreme Guide of the Islamic Revolution. « It has been a year now that we have been subjected to pressure and censorship, which is aimed not only at the reformist newspapers, » said Mehdi Faghihi.

At the same time, publishers of the reformist newspapers Yas-e no, Sharq, Hambastegi and Baharaneh have been summoned by the Teheran court this week on a complaint from the prosecutor's office and the prosecutor-general Said Mortazavi. A major figure in the reform movement, journalist Abbas Abdi, has just had his jail sentence increased by five years. He has already been held in solitary confinement for several months at Evin prison and has been on hunger strike for the past 28 days. Abdi was arrested in February for among things « giving information to enemies of the Islamic regime » and sentenced to eight years in jail. His sentence was reduced to four and a half years in April. It has just been extended by five years for a count on the charge sheet that was not made public."

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