Search Posts

If No Journalists Jailed in Iran, Why Did You Promise Their Release?



The Iranian president’s short but strange answer to Christian Amanpour’s question has unleashed a wave of criticism against him. One of Rouhani’s main slogans during his presidential campaign was the release of journalists and political prisoner. Only a year after coming to power, however, Rouhani told CNN that he “does not believe that an individual would be detained or put in prison for being a journalist.”

Rouhani made the claim even though at least fourteen journalists are currently imprisoned in Iran¾some jailed even after Rouhani’s election. The number is substantially higher if one counts all journalists who spent time in prison in recent years, especially after the contentious 2009 presidential election.

To assess Rouhani’s claim, I paid a visit to the families of some imprisoned journalists: Masoud Bastani and Bahman Ahmadi Amouei, who have been in prison since 2009 and Reyhaneh Tabatabaee, who has been imprisoned after Rouhani’s coming to power. I asked the families of these journalists: Why are your loved ones in prison, and for what crime?

Ahmadi Amouei’s wife, Zhila Baniyaghoub, who herself has served time in prison for her professional activities as a journalist and is currently serving a 30-year ban from all journalistic activities, tells Rooz: “Bahman is in prison solely because of his articles. He was charged with propaganda against the regime and acting against national security, but the evidence presented were his articles…. Most of the articles were economic in nature and criticized the Ahmadinejad administration’s economic policies.” Baniyaghoub adds that in an open letter to Majlis representatives last year written from prison, Ahmadi Amouei pointed out that his criticism against Ahmadinejad’s economic policies is the same criticism currently made on the Majlis floor, except that he made them six years ago and received a five-year prison term for them.

Masoud Bastani’s wife, Mahsa Amrabadi, herself a journalist too who has served time for her professional activities, tells Rooz, “Masoud is certainly in prison for his journalism. The evidence against him is certainly consistent with his activities as a journalist. It is true journalism itself is not a crime under the law… and we thank the gentlemen for at least not including it as such in the Islamic penal code. However, our journalist colleagues who are in prison have all been convicted for acting against national security and conspiracy through writing articles; meaning exactly for their journalistic activities.”

Reacting to Rouhani’s strange claim, Reyhaneh Tabatabaee’s mother tells Rooz: “We certainly expected more from him. I was shocked. Even if he wanted to evade the question, he could have given a more diplomatic answer…. The day they arrested Reyhaneh and took her to prison I told you that the perpetrators wanted to blame Rouhani and weaken him, even though the arrest had nothing to do with him. I stand by my answer and still defend Mr. Rouhani, but I was still shocked and heartbroken to hear his response…. Reyhaneh was a journalist and is in prison for her journalism.”

Marzieh Rasouli, Reyhaneh Tabatabaee, Masoud Bastani, Bahman Ahmadi Amouei, Ahmad Zeidabadi, Seraj Mirdamadi, Alireza Rajaei, Khosrow and Masoud Kordpour, Alireza Beheshti Shirazi, Saeed Matinpour, Keyvan Samimi, Jason Rezaian and Yeganeh Salehi are among the journalists currently imprisoned in Iran.

Rooz online