INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY: REPORTERS WITHOUT BORDERS SUPPORTS WOMEN JOURNALISTS AND BLOGGERS FIGHTING FOR WOMEN’S RIGHTS

INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY: REPORTERS WITHOUT BORDERS SUPPORTS WOMEN JOURNALISTS AND BLOGGERS FIGHTING FOR WOMEN’S RIGHTS

Reporters Without Borders today urged support for women
journalists, activists, bloggers and Internet users speaking out for
their rights in the face of “increasing repression” by governments and
threats from religious groups.

“The imprisonment, torture,
prosecution and death threats against them must be exposed,” the
worldwide press freedom organisation said. “It is unacceptable that
today, in 2008, people can still be jailed or threatened with death for
raising this rights issue.”


Many women are now fighting for freedom of expression in Iran by
using the Internet to dodge censorship. The government has arrested
more than 40 of them over the past year, including 32 journalists and
bloggers, for demonstrating in Teheran for their rights and then
continuing their campaign online as cyber-feminists in blogs and news
websites.  Some spent a few weeks in prison and all are currently free
but still facing charges.  The intelligence and security ministry
called cyber-feminists “subversives in the pay of foreigners” in April
last year.

The Iranian feminist monthly Zanan was suspended on
28 January this year for supposedly “damaging the minds” of its readers
and more than 30 of its staff lost their jobs. Parvin Ardalan, editor
of the website Wechange, which defends women’s rights in Iran, was
arrested on 3 March as she was boarding a flight for Stockholm to
receive the 2007 Olof Palme human rights prize.  Her passport was
confiscated on the orders of the Teheran chief prosecutor. She was also
arrested in June 2006 after organising a peaceful protest to demand
abolition of discriminatory laws against women in Iran.

In
Afghanistan, a man, Sayed Perwiz Kambakhsh, has been condemned to death
for defending women’s rights. He was arrested on 27 October last year
in the north of the country and accused of “blasphemy” and “insulting
Islam.”  After persistent pressure from the national Council of Mullahs
and local authorities, he was sentenced to death on 22 January this
year after a secret trial with no lawyer present to defend him. The
23-year-old journalism student at Balkh University is a reporter for
the paper Jahan-e-Naw (“New World”) and had downloaded an article from
an Iranian website that cited extracts from the Koran about women.  He
did not write the article.

The most conservative Afghans think
too many women appear on local TV and are pushing for a law to force
them to wear religious garb.  Men claiming to be Talibans made death
threats against three women journalists in Mazar-e-Charif in February
2008, warning that if they continued to appear on TV members of their
families would be kidnapped. The women were unable to get protection
from the police, who have still not arrested anyone for the murder last
June of Zakia Zaki, owner of Radio Peace, which exposed abuses against
women.

Bangladeshi writer and feminist Taslima Nasreen has been
living under police guard in India since last November after deaths
threats for denouncing violations of women’s rights committed in the
name of Islam.  French President Nicolas Sarkozy wanted to present her
with the Simone de Beauvoir feminist award when he visited India this
January but did not so to avoid trouble for officials under pressure
from powerful Muslim groups.

Egyptian writer Nawal Saadawi,
founder of the Arab Women’s Solidarity Association, has also been
threatened and hounded by the law and fled her country to take refuge
in Europe.
Argentine journalist Claudia Acuña, founder of an online
news agency, La Vaca, and a related daily, MU, was targeted by police
checking the ID of everyone visiting her house last July after she
wrote a book claiming official involvement in prostitution in Buenos
Aires.

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