Khabarnegaran.info-Niki Azad: Local journalist Mahdieh Amiri speaks of the hardships of practicing journalism in the southern Iranian province of Bushehr. Amiri has been working as a journalist in Bushehr for years. Since 2007, she has been the editor-in-chief of a few local websites, biweekly and quarterly magazines. She is now the editor-in-chief of hamooniran.com website and Ava-ye Dashtestan biweekly.
The Number of Iranian Journalists Arrested Increases; Those Already Behind Bars Abused, Facing Severe Restrictions13 January 2012
Translated by Banooye Sabz
Khabarnegaran info- The arrest of Iranian journalists by security forces continues while those behind bars at Evin Prison in Tehran and Rajai Shahr prison in Karaj continue to face severe restrictions without the ability to take advantage of furlough.
According to reports by various news agencies, Fatemeh Khoradmand, journalist and wife of political prisoner Massoud Lavasani was arrested last night. Fatemeh Khoradmand is a journalist and graduate of the school of journalism at Azad University in Tehran. Despite being expelled from Hamshahri Institute [the largest journalism institute in Iran], Khoradmand was still semi active as a journalist. According to the latest reports by The Committee to Protect Journalists, with 43 journalists behind bars, Iran currently ranks as one of the countries in the world with the most imprisoned journalists. The latest arrests take place in a backdrop of worsening conditions for journalists behind bars in Rajai Shahr and Evin prison and ever increasing pressure on their families and loved ones.
Mehdi Mahmoudian Once Again Severely Beaten, Insulted and Threatened At Evin Prison
Mehdi Mahmoudian is an incarcerated journalist who has been behind bars at Rajai Shahr prison for the past two years and has been denied furlough from prison. Last week, while serving his 6 year prison sentence, Mahmoudian was beaten while being transferred by IRGC agents to the IRGC’s Ward 2A at Evin prison. The reasons for this transfer remain undisclosed. According to the same reports, the beatings by baton continued when Mahmoudian arrived at Ward 2A. In addition to being beaten, during his interrogation process, Mahmoudian faced vulgar insults by IRGC agents who threatened him because of the letters he had been writing while in prison.
According to informed sources, the beatings were so severe that Mahmoudian reportedly lost consciousness and security agents were forced to transfer him to the prison infirmary where he was connected to an oxygen mask. It is also worth mentioning that Mahmoudian was recently hospitalized as a result of a heart condition.
Mehdi Mahmoudian, journalist and human rights activist was arrested on September 7th, 2009 and transferred to Evin prison, following the protests that took place in reaction to rigged results of the presidential election in 2009 . Mahmoudian, head of the Communication Department for the Participation Front, was one of the individuals who exposed the atrocities that had occurred at Kahrizak prison.
Massoud Bastani in Dire Physical Condition
The reports of illnesses at Rajai Shahr prison continue. Despite his dire physical condition, prison officials at Rajai Shahr prison and the Iranian Judiciary have refused to grant Massoud Bastani medical furlough and continue to delay his transfer to a hospital for medical treatment.
Bastani an incarcerated journalist currently serving a 6 year prison sentence at Rajai Shahr prison in Karaj, suffers from severe migraine headaches that have led to several incidents of Hemiparesis (weakness on one side of the body) resulting in his transfer to the prison infirmary.
According to the forensic doctors who examined him in prison, Bastani is in dire need of a CT scan and should be transferred to a hospital as soon as possible in order to be examined by medical specialists. To date, however, Rajai Shahr prison officials and the Judiciary have refused to send Bastani to a hospital outside of prison.
Bastani’s family are gravely concerned about his physical condition. His mother has expressed alarm regarding her son’s condition stating: " Massoud has been in prison for more than 2 1/2 years without even one day of furlough from prison. His physical condition has deteriorated on a daily basis due to his lack of movement and limited access to fruit and appropriate nutrition. Prior to his incarceration, Massoud had problems with his teeth and gums and also suffered from a digestive disorder. He now also suffers from Hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol blood levels) and even though they have conducted blood tests and come to the conclusion that he requires medical care, the prison officials unfortunately continue to ignore our requests for medical furlough."
Massoud Bastani was arrested on July 5th 2009 and sentenced to 6 years imprisonment on charges of propaganda against the regime and colluding and conspiring with the intent to disturb public order. Bastani was at Evin prison until January 2009 but was transferred to Rajai Shahr prison, a prison housing dangerous offenders, on January 25th, 2009. Bastani has been deprived of furlough from prison since his arrest.
Isa Saharkhiz Admitted to the Hospital in Shackles
Reports from Rajai Shahr prison point to the fact that Isa Saharkhiz, incarcerated journalist was recently transferred in shackles to a hospital and remains admitted, chained to his hospital bed.
Irangreenvoice.com reports that Saharkhiz who has been behind bars for 29 months without one day of furlough, had become extremely weak as a result of his numerous hunger strikes, political fasts and the various pressure and restrictions exerted upon him while in prison.
According to the latest reports, four security agents are present 24x7 in the small hospital room where Sharkhiz is receiving medial care, monitoring his communication with others. Despite his physical weakness and the fact that he suffers from various ailments, his hands and feet are chained in the form of an X to his hospital bed during most hours of the day and night.
Saharkhiz has reportedly lost a significant amount of weight and suffers from extreme fluctuations in blood pressure. Hospital personnel report that the limited access to fruit, vegetables and a variety of vitamins, has led to negative physiological affects.
Last month Saharkhiz’s wife addressed a letter to Tehran’s prosecutor demanding that her husband receive medical attention outside of prison and the family offered to pay for all the expenses associated with his medical care. Although her request was ignored until a few days ago, Saharkhiz’s physical condition reportedly deteriorated to such a degree that judicial and prison authorities finally agreed to allow him to be transferred to an external hospital for medical treatment.
Saharkhiz was one of many journalists arrested after the rigged presidential elections and until this recent transfer to the hospital he had been denied furlough from prison. He is a member of the Central Council of the Association for the Defense of Press Freedom in Iran, the former editor of the banned monthly publication Aftab and was the head of the press department at the Iranian Ministry of Culture and Education during former President Khatami’s administration.
Saharkhiz was illegally arrested in early July 2009 after publishing a number of articles critical of the ruling government and the Supreme Leader and in support of the Green Movement.
Hassan Fathi Remains Behind Bars in Solitary Confinement
Hassan Fathi is yet another incarcerated journalists in a state of limbo at Evin prison since November. His family have recently expressed grave concern regarding the fact that he remains in solitary confinement.
In an interview with BBC Farsi, one of Fathi’s family members described the behavior by security and judiciary officials as highly degrading adding: "If he is guilty then put him on trial and execute him based on the laws of our land. Our martyrs lost their lives so that there would be no discrimination."
Fathi’s family insist on his innocence and the illegal nature of his arrest, rejecting the charges of "spreading lies and negatively influencing public opinion" filed against him. They state: " Fathi is a well known and respected journalist who has been writing for 30 years."
Fathi’s arrest was widely condemned both inside Iran and abroad with 102 Iranian journalists signing a statement demanding his immediate and unconditional release.
Hassan Fathi was arrested on November 13th. Pro government media outlets claimed that he had been arrested as a result of his interview with BBC Farsi regarding the blast at the Revolutionary Guard depot that killed at least 17 soldiers.
Continued Pressure on Journalists in the Provinces of Iran
Journalists in the provinces of Iran are also under extreme pressure. In recent weeks, rather than granting journalists bail, many have been handed down further prison sentences. Case in point, Hamid Moazeni, journalist and writer from the city of Boushehr was arrested and transferred to prison.
Advar News reported that Moazeni was arrested by agents of the Intelligence Ministry on September 27th, 2011 in the city of Bushehr and was released on 90,000 USD bail after enduring 15 days behind bars.
Moazeni was an active member of the electoral campaign for former opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi, now under house arrest for over 300 days. He also collaborated with independent media outlets in the city of Boushehr and his resume includes editorial responsibility for local weekly newsletters such as "Birmi", "Avab Baharestan", "Daryayeh Jonoob" and "Salam Jonoob", to name a few.
In other news, the appeals court in the province of Eastern Azerbaijan has upheld the 6 month sentence issue against Saeed Moghanli, poet and journalist from the city of Tabriz.
Though Saeed Moghanli was reportedly cleared of the charge of "cooperation with a hostile country, namely the United States (as a result of participating in journalism training in the Republic of Azerbaijan) another charge pending against him, "using illegitimate funds for purposes of education" (to participate in journalism courses) has been overthrown and handed down to the public criminal courts for review. Moghanli was also charged with "propaganda against the regime", as a result of the poems he posted on his personal web blog; a charge that led to a 6 month prison sentence.
Saeed Matinpour Behind Bars for 2 Years and 5 Months Without Furlough
According to reports from Evin prison, Saeed Matinpour, incarcerated journalist and human rights activist from Azerbaijan behind bars at Evin’s ward 350, continues to be deprived of visitation rights, all telephone contact and furlough from prison.
In an interview with Jaras online, Matinpour’s wife, Atieh Taheri while reiterating that her husband has been deprived of his basic human rights, confirmed that he has been behind bars for 2 years and five months without one day of furlough. According to his wife, Matinpour has not only have the authorities not agreed to grant him furlough, but he has also been deprived of face to face visitation for the past six months.
Mrs. Matinpour added: " Every week I travel from Zanjan to Tehran in order to see him from behind a telephone booth. Though this travel back and forth is very difficult, in comparison to what our loved ones are enduring behind bars, this hardship is nevertheless insignificant. Saeed suffers from extreme back ache. He has had Xtrays taken and the doctors have diagnosed that one of his vertebrae has been displaced and is inflamed. As a result he was given medication to treat the pain. They told us to coordinate a doctor’s visit outside of prison, but because they wanted to put him in shackles outside of prison, Saeed refused to go to the doctor’s office."
Saeed Matinpour was arrested on May 25th 2007 and spent 9 months behind bars at the Intelligence Ministry’s detention center in Zanjan and at Evin prison where he was beaten and interrogated under extreme pressure. Ultimately, the 15th branch of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran presided by judge Salavati sentenced him to 7 years in prison on charges of collaboration with foreign countries and 1 year in prison on charges of propaganda against the regime, bringing his total sentence to 8 years behind bars. It is worth mentioning that Matinpour rejected all charges against him and was not given the opportunity to defend himself in a court of law.
Matinpour is a graduate of philosophy from the University of Tehran and a member of the editorial board of the weekly newsleter ""Yarpagh" and "Moje Bidari". He is also a civil activist and used to blog in the Azari language.
Incarcerated Journalists Deprived of their Right to Face to Face Visitations and Furlough from Prison
Bahman Ahmadi Amoui is yet another incarcerated journalist who has been deprived of face to face visitations and furlough from prison for the past 2 1/2 years. Ahmandi Amoui a journalist in the field of economics, was arrested at his home on June 20th, 2009 along with his wife Jila Baniyaghoub and continues behind bars at Evin prison. Ahmadi Amoui was granted furlough once, but has not left prison for the past two years. According to his family he is only allowed to see his wife and other family members from behind a telephone cabin window and has been deprived of all face to face visitation for the past year. Ahmadi Amoui has not even been allowed telephone contact with his old and ailing mother living in the provinces.
Like many other families of political prisoners, Ahmadi Amoui’s family have repeatedly requested that Tehran’s prosecutor grant him furlough, but to date all requests have been denied; this while the Revolutionary Court is in possession of a bail from the family in the amount of $50,000 dollars. Ahmadi Amoui was sentenced to five years in prison by the 54th branch of the appeals court on charges of writing critical articles regarding the economic policies of Ahmadinejad’s government in Sarmayeh Newspaper and on his personal web blog. He was also charged for his activities as editor of Khordad-e-No Website.
Ahmad Zeidabadi, Keyvan Samimi and other incarcerated journalists are also behind bars deprived of their basic human rights. Ahmad Zeidabadi was arrested the day after the controversial presidential elections in 2009. During his time behind bars, he has only been granted 48 hours of furlough from prison. Keyvan Samimi has been in prison for more than 2 years and has yet to be granted furlough. Samimi is suffering from a number of ailments and his children have repeatedly requested that judicial authorities grant him medical furlough, but all requests have been ignored to date.
In addition to the aforementioned journalists, many other journalists are currently spending their days behind bars in prisons across Iran under very difficult circumstances, deprived of all basic human rights.
Khabarnegaran.info-Niki Azad: How is life for Iranian journalists after prison? Does their attitude toward their journalism – the profession that put them in jail – change? Are they more conservative than before? Or bolder?
Khabarnegaran – Niki Azad: He has been put in jail three times for his journalist writing, though he says that jail has not made him feel disappointed with the profession of journalism.