Wednesday, January 13, 2010

We are Threatened Everyday

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Rooz Online English

More than seven months into the disputed June 12 presidential elections in Iran, the trend of arresting and intimidating the country’s journalists continues unabated. Tens of journalists, members of editorial boards, and the head of Iran’s Association for the Defense of Press Freedom are in detention; the offices of the country Association of Journalists is sealed off on orders of former hardline prosecutor Mortezavi; and many journalists are out of job. But even these reporters continue to face daily intimidation and are summoned by the ministry of intelligence and Tehran’s police, are interrogated and are threatened. During these turbulent seven months, many journalists have chosen forced exile and await a review of their applications by the UN’s high Commissioner for Refugees in neighboring countries. Amongst those who have remained in Iran, many have opted to switch jobs and work as secretaries or drivers: but the threats and intimidation still continue. Journalists who continue to work despite the serial warnings by ministry of Islamic guidance, repeated circulars of the supreme national security council, and the summons, threats etc that bombard them from security officials is the subject of this Rooz interview. It is clear that the true names of those interviewed are not going to be mentioned for fear of reprisals against them. One journalist, who has still now been summoned to the ministry of intelligence several times but still continues his journalistic work, has a 10 year media history.

He says, “We have never worked in a free newspaper or media, but the price we paid until the June 12 elections was that the media would be arrested and we would be unemployed, denied insurance, social security, etc. Seldom were we treated harshly or heavy prison sentences given. But since that day, we feel we do not even have security for our lives. It is now months since I have had a peaceful night and every night I fear they will come after me. As soon as I hear the sound of a car, I fear my turn has arrived.” “Sometimes I tell myself I wish they would arrest me so that I would not continue to live in fear, but then I am overrun by the thought that even a single news piece that I may publish may be effective, and so I reject the arrest idea,” he said. This reporter tells us about the gypsy life of some of his colleagues and says, “some of my colleagues move from one house to the next every night. They feel no safety in going back to their own house and cannot remain in one place. This despite that they have not committed any crime but only for doing what their profession expects them to do.” So what is the condition of journalists whose publications were banned after the electoral coup? Since June 12, some 20 newspaper and publications have been banned and hundreds of journalists and writers have lost their job. One of these who has been out of a job for six months now, told Rooz, “I have been unemployed for six months. This happened after plainclothes agents came to our newspaper and shut it. I have not written a single paragraph since then. But despite this, everyone says I should be careful because they would arrest me as well because I am a journalist. They do not care whether you are working now or not. They have a problem with all journalists and want to intimidate all of them wishing they could shut all news channels and outlets. This is why I am always aware that I may be arrested any time.” (Read more...)