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Archive for the ‘Detained Journalists’ Category

More Than 3,500 Petition Iran to Free Journalists, Writers

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More than 3,500 international journalists, writers, and press freedom leaders — are petitioning Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Sayed Ali Khamenei, to immediately release dozens of journalists, writers, and bloggers imprisoned in the country, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists’ website.

Among those who have signed the petition are Martin Amis, Jon Lee Anderson, Margaret Atwood, E.L. Doctorow, Jonathan Franzen, Thomas L. Friedman, Nadine Gordimer, Gwen Ifill, Ahmed Rashid, Jon Stewart and Mario Vargas Llosa.

A coalition of free-expression organizations delivered the petition today to the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York. Petitioners’ names were collected through Facebook and the “Our Society Will Be a Free Society” campaign, a coalition project dedicated to winning the freedom of all journalists jailed in Iran. Additional names of prominent petitioners can be viewed on the campaign Web site.

“We hope those in jail will be heartened by this level of international attention,” said Joel Simon, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, one of the sponsors of the petition drive. “By collecting these names from all corners of the world, we want to convey to our imprisoned colleagues the depth of our concern and to Iranian authorities the depth of our outrage.”

The petitioners urge Ayatollah Khamenei to release all journalists, writers, and bloggers now behind bars and to uphold the pledge of his predecessor, Sayyed Ruhollah Mousavi Khomeini, who said in 1978 on the eve of the revolution: “Our future society will be a free society, and all the elements of oppression, cruelty, and force will be destroyed.”

At least 34 journalists were jailed in Iran on April 1, according to CPJ research. Another 18 were free on short-term furloughs coinciding with the Iranian New Year, but were expected to report back to prison this week. CPJ has been conducting a monthly census of journalists jailed in Iran, now the world’s worst jailer of the press.

The petition effort was organized by a coalition of 16 international free expression groups: CPJ; Index on Censorship; Reporters Without Borders; PEN American Center; International PEN; Canadian Journalists for Free Expression; International Publishers Association; Article 19; World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers; International Federation of Journalists; National Press Club; World Press Freedom Committee; Observatory for the Freedom of Press, Publishing and Creation; Institute of Mass Information; International Women’s Media Foundation; and Freedom House.

Those interested in joining the petition may still do so.

Here are capsules of those detained.

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April 7, 2010 at 11:04 pm

Reporter in Somalia Abducted by Group with Ties to Al-Queda

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Militants from the Al-Qaeda-allied insurgent group Al-Shabaab abducted a reporter in Somalia on Sunday, the Committee to Protect Journalists reported yesterday.

Ali Yussuf Adan, a reporter with the Somaliweyn Media Center, a private broadcaster, in the town of Wanlaweyn, northwest of the capital Mogadishu, is being held in a prison in the Al-Shabaab-held coastal city of Merca, according to the National Union of Somali Journalists.

The motive behind the abduction is still unknown, Somaliweyn Director Abukar Hassan Kabar told CPJ. The union told CPJ that Adan was picked up on Sunday morning, shortly after reporting Al-Shabaab’s alleged killing of a man accused of being late to a Saturday prayer mandatory under their version of Sharia law.

“The abduction and detention of Ali Yussuf Adan is not justified under any legal system,” said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney. “We call on Al-Shabaab to release him immediately.”

Al-Shabaab militants are battling rival Islamist faction Hizbul Islam, and the U.S. and U.N.-backed Somali Transitional Federal Government for control of the country. Al-Shabaab has forced at least five broadcasters off the air in recent months and imposed draconian restrictions—such as banning music and not allowing news to air without prior authorization—on other media outlets across large swaths of southern Somalia, according to the union.

Somalia is one of the world’s deadliest countries for the press, according to CPJ research. Nine journalists were killed for their work in Somalia in 2009.

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February 23, 2010 at 11:22 am

Another Iranian Condemned to Death; Regime Has Arrested Eight More Journalists

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Another Iranian citizen has been sentenced to execution for particiapting in an anti-government riots at the end of December, the ISNA news agency reported on Tuesday. A total of 12 people have been sentenced to death.

“Nine leaders of the Ashura troubles have been condemned — one to capital punishment and nine to prison sentences,” said ISNA, quoting the Tehran prosecutor’s office and without providing details.

Eight people were killed and hundreds more hurt in the December 27 demonstrations on Ashura, a Shiite Muslim holy day, the latest in a series of protests over what many in Iran believed to have been the rigged re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in June.

Hundreds more people were arrested during or after the Ashura protest.

Meanwhile, senior justice official Seyyed Ebrahim Raissi said another nine people already condemned to death are awaiting the outcome of an appeal.

“Their case is before the appeals court and its decision must be awaited,” he said.

Of the 12 people in total condemned to hang, two were executed on January 28.

Mohammad Reza Ali Zamani and Arash Rahmani Pour had been convicted of being Mohareb (enemies of God) after being charged with plotting to topple the Islamic regime.

Meanwhile, the prosecution said “the conviction of 35 elements” arrested during the demonstrations “has been confirmed and sent to the judge for carrying out of the sentence. They were accused of “gathering in contravention of security, propaganda against the regime, attacks on the forces of order, destruction and arson.”

Here is Al Jazeera report on the earlier executions:

Reporters sans frontières said today that it deplores the fact that, as a result of arrests in the past few days, the number of journalists and netizens detained in Iran now exceeds 65.

“This is a figure that is without precedent since Reporters Without Borders was created in 1985,” the press-freedom organization’s secretary-general, Jean-François Julliard, said. “The detainees include journalists based in Tehran and the provinces.”

At the same time, the Internet has been experiencing a great deal of disruption since the evening of 6 February and some mobile phone companies are no longer allowing users to send SMS messages. The measures appear to be part of a concerted effort by the authorities to prevent opposition protests during the Islamic Revolution’s 31st anniversary celebrations on 11 February.

Intelligence ministry officials arrested at least eight journalists yesterday and the day before and took them to unknown places of detentions. Those arrested include:

Akbar Montajabi of Etemad-e Mell (a daily closed by the authorities)

Ahmad Jalali Farahani (arrested a day after being fired from the Meher News agency)

Mahsa Jazini of the Isfahan-based daily Iran

Somayeh Momeni of the monthly Nasim Bidary

Zeynab Kazem-Khah, an arts reporter for the ISNA news agency

Amir Sadeghi, a photographer with the daily Farhangh Ashti

Hassan Zohouri of the Mirass Farhanghi news agency

Ehsan Mehrabi of the daily Farhikhteghan

Vahid Pourostad of the daily Farhikhteghan

Reporters Without Borders has not received any news of several other journalists and netizens who were also reportedly arrested in recent days.

The press freedom organisation has learned that Ali Mohammad Islampour, editor of the Qasrnews blog and editor of the Navai Vaghat newspaper, was arrested on a charge of “publishing false information liable to upset public opinion” on 3 February after being summoned by a revolutionary court in the western city of Kermanshah.

In a press release yesterday, the intelligence ministry announced the arrests of seven journalists for “collaborating with Zionist satellite TV stations.” The journalists are accused of “receiving professional training abroad in the preparation of a velvet revolution,” disturbing public order and “collaborating with Radio Farda (Radio Free Europe).” A senior Radio Farda representative denied the allegation and said the station had no journalists in Iran.

In an open letter to international media that have been invited by the Iranian authorities to cover the 31st anniversary celebrations, ten Iranian exile journalists said they had detailed information from Iran about the government’s plans to give the impression that it is supported by most of the population. It not only wants to prevent an opposition rally on Azadi Square, where President Ahmadinejad will give his speech, but also to ensure that there will only be government supporters in the square, the letter said.

Inviting foreign journalists to cover the Islamic Revolution’s official anniversary was a trap, the journalists wrote. A government that has already arrested, jailed and charged journalists working for foreign news media, now wanted to demonstrate its popularity to the entire world and thereby conceal the protests, they said.

The letter added: “You are going to Iran not only as media representatives of the free world, but also as representatives of your Iranian fellow journalists who are either in prison or in exile outside Iran. Your host is a government that is anti-freedom, anti-free media, and one that violates the most basic human rights of its people.”

Reporters Without Borders wrote to United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navanethem Pillay on 4 February voicing concern about the situation in Iran and requesting an interview. The organisation also wrote to the foreign ministers of the European Union’s 27 member countries urging them to recall their ambassadors from Tehran “to protest against the arbitrary repression of government opponents, denounce the judicial farce of the Stalinist-style show trials and publicly express your concern about the imminent risk of executions.”

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February 9, 2010 at 4:13 pm

Iran’s Brutal Crackdown on Journalists Continuing

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Reporters sans frontières reported today that six months after Iran’s disputed June 12 presidential election, the news and information are still being sensored by authorities, and journalists are being persecuted at a frightening rate.

More than 100 journalists have been arrested since the election and about 50 have fled into exile. A dozen newspapers have been closed by the authorities and access to thousands of Internet pages has been blocked, the advocacy agency said.

Within hours of the announcement of President Mahmoud Ahmadinedjad’s election “victory,” journalists were being arrested by the intelligence ministry, Revolutionary Guards and other security services. Most were taken to Tehran’s Evin prison. At least 100 journalists and bloggers have been arrested since 12 June and 27 are still being held. Iran is one of the world’s five biggest prisons for journalists.

Like Chile’s national stadium in Santiago after the 1973 military coup, Evin prison has been turned into a massive holding centre for political detainees, most of whom are mistreated and subject to considerable psychological harassment.

Some journalists have been freed in exchange for the payment of exorbitant sums in bail, after being given prison sentences ranging from five to nine years. Others have been released pending trial.

Meanwhile, journalists continue to be harassed in the major provincial cities such as Mashhad, Isfahan, Shiraz and Tabriz, where they are often summoned, interrogated and threatened.

Give the report a read. Our biggest problem in the United States is keeping our jobs. Journalists in Iran are fighting for their lives.

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December 12, 2009 at 12:05 pm

Iran Releases Newsweek’s Maziar Bahari on Bail

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Maziar Bahari, a journalist with dual Canadian and Iranian citizenship who is Newsweek’s Iran correspondent, was freed on bail on Saturday.

Iran took the action two days after UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon released a damning
report on the human-rights situation in Iran. He had been held without being charged in prison in Iran since June 21.

“We are all relieved to hear that Maziar Bahari has been released on bail and currently at home with his family in Tehran,” Canadian Journalists for Free Expression Executive Director Annie Game said. “Hopefully this is a sign that other journalists who continue to languish in jail in Iran will also be released in the near future.”

While this long awaited news is extremely welcome – there remain concerns that Bahari’s ability to leave the country may be restricted. Bahari’s wife, Paola Gourley, is expecting the birth of their first child on October 26, in England. Bahari was freed on payment of 300 million toman ($372,500) of bail after 120 days in Tehran’s Evin prison. He is still awaiting a trial on undetermined charges.

Meanwhile, the Iranian authorities are refusing to provide any information about Hossein Derakhshan, a blogger with dual Canadian and Iranian citizenship who has been held for nearly a year.

“Bahari’s release should not divert attention from the fact that 31 other journalists and bloggers, including Derakhshan, are still detained in Iran,” Reporters sans frontières, a Paris-based international advocacy group for reporters, said. “Canada and the entire international community must redouble efforts to get the Iranian authorities to free all the imprisoned journalists. Ban Ki-Moon’s recent report confirms that the human rights situation has deteriorated considerably.”

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October 19, 2009 at 11:00 pm

Negotiators Angered By British-Led Raid to Free NY Times Reporter

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Hostage negotiators expressed shock and anger today at British Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s sending in the muscle of a commando raid to free a kidnapped New York Times journalist, saying that they were within days of securing his release through peaceful means, James Hider, Philip Webster and Michael Evans of the London Times report this morning.

Stephen Farrell — a British citizen who was in Afghanistan as a reporter for The York Times was rescued in yesterday’s commando raid, but his Afghan translator, Sultan Munadi, and a British soldier from the Special Forces Support Group were killed.

According to media reports, the raid took place in the village of Kharudi, which was the site of a recent air strike that killed dozens of people. The raid to rescue Farrell took place under the cover of darkness early Tuesday when U.S. helicopters were used to deploy British and Afghan troops. At least one civilian and many Taliban militants were killed in the firefight during the rescue.

The Times report continues:

Defence sources said that intensive efforts had been made over the weekend to pinpoint the hostages and assess the strength of the Taleban presence. They said there were no guarantees that a negotiated deal would have led to Mr. Farrell’s release and that there were fears he could be moved. However, several sources in Kabul said that the captors were, at worst, seeking a ransom. A Western source involved in the talks said: “There was no immediate urgency that they were going to be beheaded or handed over to another group. You cannot move them easily. It’s a very isolated area.”

Another Western official said: “It was totally heavy-handed. If they’d showed a bit of patience and respect they could have got both of them out without firing a bullet. Instead, they ended up having one of their own killed, the Afghan killed and civilians killed. There’s a lot of p****d-off people at the moment.”

The negotiations had begun within 24 hours of the kidnapping last week. The Interior Minister had persuaded 300 local elders to intercede with the kidnappers, saying that the hostages were just journalists doing their job. Mr Mudani’s uncle had established communications with the provincial Taleban commander. An Afghan who spoke with the local commander said: “I think we could have got them out peacefully, maybe in a few days.”

Tuesday night’s raid was approved by David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, and Bob Ainsworth, the Defence Secretary, after consulting Gordon Brown, The Times can confirm.

Mr Brown said: “Hostage-taking is never justified, and the UK does not make substantive concessions, including paying ransoms.”

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September 10, 2009 at 7:51 am

Daring Raid Rescues Times Reporter Held Capitve in Afghanistan

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New York Times reporter Stephen Farrell, held captive by Afghanistan militants since Saturday, was rescued during a military commando raid by NATO forces earlier today. Unfortunately, his interpreter, Sultan Munadi; a British commando, and an Afghan woman were killed in the rescue attempt.

He was working near Kunduz, in northern Afghanistan, on a story concerning the aftermath of Friday’s NATO airstrikes on Friday that resulted in scores of deaths, including that of civilians, Eric Schmitt of the Times reported.

Schmitt gives more details of the rescue in his report:

In a brief telephone call about 7:30 p.m. New York time on Tuesday, Mr. Farrell told Susan Chira, the foreign editor of The Times: “I’m out! I’m free!”

Ms. Chira said Mr. Farrell told her that he had been “extracted” by a commando raid carried out by “a lot of soldiers” in a fierce firefight with his captors. He said Mr. Munadi was fatally shot. “He was trying to protect me up to the last minute,” Mr. Farrell said.

A statement from Prime Minister Gordon Brown of Britain announced the commando’s death, and an Afghan official confirmed the death of the woman.

Mr. Farrell, 46, joined The Times in July 2007 as a correspondent in the Baghdad bureau. He has spent many years covering the struggles of the Afghan and Iraqi people and built a respected reputation for his reporting on the Middle East and South Asia. He holds British and Irish citizenship.

Mr. Munadi, who was 34 and the father of two children, had worked regularly with The Times and other news organizations and was in the process of studying for a master’s degree in public policy in Germany. Back briefly in Afghanistan, he had returned to his role as a translator. He had hoped to one day work in public education to ease the problem of widespread illiteracy in Afghanistan.

Mr. Farrell, speaking to colleagues at The Times, said that he and Mr. Munadi were moved several times over their four days of captivity, and were finally moved into a very small room. In the first two days, he said, they had felt optimistic that they would be released.

The men holding them talked freely on their cellphones, Mr. Farrell said, and on the third day, some new Taliban figures, evidently more senior and from outside the immediate district, arrived. Mr. Munadi told Mr. Farrell they discussed moving the captives from the Kunduz area.

The atmosphere grew menacing, Mr. Farrell said. The captors taunted Mr. Munadi, reminding him of a case two years ago in which an Italian journalist taken hostage in Helmand Province was freed while his Afghan translator was beheaded.

Early Wednesday, the thump-thumping of approaching helicopters became audible.

“We were all in a room, the Talibs all ran, it was obviously a raid,” Mr. Farrell said. “We thought they would kill us.”

The captors scattered, he said, and the two men initially stayed put, fearing to be caught in any cross-fire. Then one of the captors came back and tipped his gun toward them, he said, but left without firing. The two men waited a bit, then made their way out of the room into a courtyard. Mr. Munadi leading, they scuttled along the outside wall of the compound. “It was a big, high mud-brick wall,” Mr. Farrell said. He said he could hear British and Afghan voices. “There were bullets all around us,” he said.

In the darkness, they ran along the wall for 60 feet or so, and then Mr. Munadi put up his hands and walked into the open, calling “journalist, journalist!” Gunfire broke out and he fell, Mr. Farrell said, just a couple of feet away.

“He was three seconds away from safety,” Mr. Farrell said. “I thought we were safe. He just walked into a hail of bullets.”

He said he dove into a ditch and waited a couple of minutes, listening for which direction the British voices were coming from, and then shouted, “British hostage! British hostage!”

The British voices told him to come over. As he did, Mr. Farrell said, he saw Mr. Munadi.

“He was lying in the same position as he fell,” Mr. Farrell said. “That’s all I know. I saw him go down in front of me. He did not move. He’s dead. He was so close, he was just two feet in front of me when he dropped.”

Neither The Times nor Mr. Farrell’s family knew that the military operation was taking place.

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September 9, 2009 at 12:50 pm

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