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London rally protests harsh treatment of Iranian trade unionists

26 June 2009

Hundreds of trade unionists and campaigners joined a rally outside the Iranian embassy in London today. They were demonstrating against the harsh treatment of trade unionists by the Iranian government, which dates back to well before the current unrest in the country.

The NUJ deputy general secretary has delivered a letter to the Iranian embassy calling for the release of arrested journalists in Iran and urged the country's president to lift restrictions currently imposed on the media. In the letter, Michelle Stanistreet highlights the cases of a number of journalists under arrest or in hiding following a crackdown on the press over the last two weeks.

Key figures in the Association of Iranian Journalists have been affected by the situation.

Michelle Stanistreet said:

"This isn't about supporting one side or another in a political debate, it is about ensuring that fundamental rights are respected, that the press is free to report on what is happening and that workers are free to organise themselves in trade unions."

Speaking ahead of the rally, Brendan Barber, TUC General Secretary, said that workers from across London were going to the Iranian embassy "to show support for those imprisoned in Iran, calling on the Government there to release them immediately and re-instate all those sacked for their union activities."

He stressed that those involved in the protests were focussing on the need to respect fundamental rights:

"We are protesting in solidarity with trade unionists in Iran because they have asked for our support and because Iran is violating universal human rights – we do not advocate or support unilateral interventions in how Iran is run."

The full text of the letter to the Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad:

Your Excellency,

On behalf of the National Union of Journalists, which represents 38,000 journalists in the UK and Ireland, I am writing to express my deep concern about news of the arrest of Karim Arghandepour, a well-known Iranian journalist who is also an elected member of the Executive Committee of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), of which we are an affiliate.

According to the Association of Iranian Journalists, Karim was arrested along with other journalists, including Jason (Lasson) Athanasiadis of Greece who was working for the Washington Times, in the wake of protests and controversy that have followed the recent presidential election.

We are also concerned for the safety of Ali Mazrooei, the Chair of the Association of Iranian journalists, who is currently in hiding for his own personal security. Like other journalists' leaders he is fearful of being targeted by the authorities for his staunch defence of journalists and their right to work independently.

These colleagues are in our minds during these difficult days when we have witnessed the targeting of media which has included the arbitrary arrest of Iranian journalists, heavy restrictions imposed on national and foreign media, and the unprecedented blocking of internet sites.

All of this is just cause for concern. These acts violate Iran's commitments to international standards of human rights, press freedom and freedom of expression which are framed in the Iranian constitution.

On behalf of all members of the National Union of Journalists we call on your government to act: to immediately release Karim Arghandepour and all other Iranian journalists; to lift the restrictions currently imposed on local and foreign media; and to restore confidence in Iran's commitment to protection of the free expression rights as set out in the Constitution.

As a matter of urgency we ask you to guarantee the safety of Ali Mazrooei, Jason (Lasson) Athanasiadis and all Iranian journalists so that they can all return to work free of the threat of arrest and intimidation.

These steps are needed to lift the cloud currently hanging over Iranian journalism.

Yours sincerely,

Michelle Stanistreet
Deputy General Secretary
National Union of Journalists (UK & Ireland)

Tags: , iran, tuc, association of iranian journalists, journalists arrested, journalists detained, press freedom, rally