Two journalists freed on bail, two others get prison sentences

Two journalists freed on bail, two others get prison sentences

Reporters Without Borders welcomes the release of Abolfazl
Abedini Nasr of the weekly Bahar Khozestan on 18 February and Said
Matinpour, a contributor to the weekly Yarpagh, on 26 February, but
condemns the prison sentences passed two days ago on journalists
Bahaman Ahamadi Amoee and Parnaz Azima, and the monthly Asar
Panjshanbeh’s suspension by the Press Surveillance and Authorisation
Commission.


“Good news never comes without bad news in the Middle East’s
biggest prison for the press,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We can
only welcome the release of two journalists but we deplore the fact
that excessive amounts of bail had to paid. The Iranian government is
unable to take criticism and still sees the right to news and
information as a threat to national security. We urge the authorities
to withdrew all the charges against these journalists and to rescind
Asar Panjshanbeh’s suspension.”

Nasr was freed on 18 February
after payment of 50 million toumen (50,000 euros) in bail. He had been
held since 13 November in a prison in Ahvaz (1,200 km south of Tehran,
in Khozestan province), where a revolutionary court gave him a one-year
sentence on 24 December on charges of “inciting workers to rebellion”
and “relations with foreign media” after he covered a workers’
demonstration.

Matinpour  was released from Tehran’s Evin prison
on 26 February following payment of 500 million toumen (500,000 euros)
in bail. He had been arrested at his home in the northwestern city of
Zanjan on 28 May 2007 on a charge of “activity against national
security.” Both his family and Nasr’s had to borrow heavily or mortgage
property to raise the bail money.

On 1 March, a Tehran appeal
court confirmed a suspended sentence of six months in prison for Amoee,
who works for the daily Sarmayeh. The sentence, for which there is
two-year period of probation, was passed on 26 September by a
revolutionary court in Tehran for “activity against national security”
and “publicity against the Islamic Republic” following his arrest on 22
June while covering a demonstration in the capital. The judge in charge
of the case criticised him for signing a petition for the release of
Jill Caroll, a US journalist held hostage in Iraq in 2006.

Also
on 1 March, the same Tehran court passed a one-year prison sentence in
absentia on Azima, a journalist with US and Iranian dual nationality
who works for Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty, after finding her
guilty of “propaganda against the regime” and “publicity against the
interests of the Islamic Republic” Azima’s passport was confiscated
when arrived in Iran in January 2007 to visit her family. She was
finally able to leave the country on 18 September.

The Press
Surveillance and Authorisation Commission suspended Asar Panjshanbeh
for “publishing articles insulting religions and the Islamic veil” and
“attacking Islamic values.” The monthly has been published for the past
years.

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