Free Iranian journalists' campaign continues
John McDonnell MP, Ben Wallace MP, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Jim Boumelha, IFJ president and Ali Mazrooi, president of the Association of Iranian Journalists - © NUJ
28 October 2013
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has welcomed the success of the 'Free Iranian Journalists' campaign to hold a roundtable discussion at the House of Commons in London and hosted by the NUJ parliamentary group.
Jeremy Corbyn MP; Ben Wallace, co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Iran; Ali Mazrooi, president of the Association of Iranian Journalists (AoIJ), the IFJ-affiliated union in Iran; Jim Boumelha, IFJ president, and John McDonnell MP participated in the event focusing on the current situation of press freedom and journalists still in jail.
Jim Boumelha, NUJ member and IFJ president said:
"We are reinvigorating our campaign since the election of Hussein Rouhani and this meeting is part of this.
"We have reacted forcefully to every one of his public declarations, especially the comment that 'guilds and associations are the best ways to run social affairs of the society.' We are making the re-opening of the Association headquarters our priority and will continue to press for the release of journalists in jail."
This meeting follows on from a briefing at the European Parliament in June about the future for freedom of expression and independent media in Iran, a few days after Rouhani was elected. At that briefing, the IFJ expressed its hopes that the President-elect's public declarations signaled a change from the hostile attitudes against the independent media from the outgoing administration.
In a letter to the new president, Jim Boumelha wrote:
"Your words of 'new opportunities 'and 'constructive interaction' and your emphasis on 'Iranian people bringing back hope throughout their turnout and participation' ring true. However, they will have a fuller meaning if you re-open the space for free journalism by ordering the lifting of the close of the Association and release journalists in jail."
Ali Mazrooi recalled how since the 2009 presidential elections, more than 160 journalists have been jailed and similar numbers have been forced to flee Iran. More than 30 newspapers and magazines have been banned.
Today around twenty journalists remain in Iranian jails, some of them since 2009. Three have been released in recent days but all have completed their jail sentence. There isn't any legal process for the detention of journalists.
They are jailed because they are deemed to have "acted against national security" and they continue to be subjected to inhuman treatment ranging from flogging to solitary confinement and denial of hospital and family visits.
Ali Mazrooi explained the targeting of his association which was forced to close in August 2009 on the order of the government's general prosecutor. Two AoIJ board members remain in prison (Mr Rajaei and Mr Mogheseh) and two others are out on bail waiting for their appeal (the union's general secretary Badrossadat Mofide and its vice-president Shamsolvaezin Mashaallah).
Ben Wallace MP highlighted the current window of opportunity and pledged the support of his parliamentary group in pressing for an end to violations of journalists rights, including intimidation of journalists and their families and censorship, as well as blocking of websites and bans on reporting issues of public interest.