US human rights group calls for press freedom in Iran
NICOSIA, Oct 12 (AFP) - Newspapers and journalists in Iran are under
attack, and the government should protect press freedom by enshrining it
in law, a prominent US human rights group said Tuesday.
"Independent newspaper editors, publishers and journalists ...
are suffering arbitrary detention, assault and prosecution," said
a report issued by Human Rights Watch.
"The press has become a human-rights victim in Iran 's political
struggle. The only way to protect press freedom is to write it clearly
into law," said Hanny Megally of HRW.
The group expressed concern that the Iranian parliament is currently
discussing amendments to the existing press law that would allegedly make
the situation of journalists even more perilous, exposing them to trial
in exceptional courts where international standards of fairness are ignored.
The HRW report charts the history of the press under moderate President
Mohammad Khatami, who came to power in 1997.
Under Khatami a diverse independent press has flourished, but at the
same time has come under attack from conservative forces in the courts,
and from armed groups who have beaten journalists and ransacked newspaper
The report pointed to the closure of the moderate Neshat newspaper last
month and the sentencing of its publisher to a 30 month suspended prison
term. Neshat was the fourth reformist paper to be closed this year.
On Monday a female newspaper editor, Jaleh Oskui, head of the Penj-
Shanbeh-ha (Thursdays) weekly, was placed in custody after the paper's
repeated publication of "outrageous" articles that "offended
public morality and decency," the official IRNA news agency said.
The same day, the managing director of the English-language daily Tehran
Times, Abbas Salimi Namin, was summoned by a military court for "revealing
secrets and publishing some false reports," IRNA reported.
The banning of another daily, Salam, in July set off student protests
that erupted in six days of bloody riots after demonstrators were attacked
by security forces and Islamic hardliners.
It was the worst unrest in Iran since the aftermath of the 1979 Islamic