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Branch report: Journalism in Iran 20 May 2008

Posted by steve1917 in NUJ, press freedom.
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Two representatives of the Iranian Workers’ Solidarity Network (IWSN) came along to the April branch meeting to report on the situation facing trade unionists and labour movement activists in Iran. In particular they were at our meeting to let us know about the conditions facing journalists under the regime. What they had to say disturbed all those present. Many journalists in Iran have been subjected to repression, arrest and – for some – much worse. One case highlighted by the speakers was that of Adnan Hassanpour, a Kurdish journalist, who has been under sentence of death since last July for spurious spying charges. Arrested at the start of 2007, he has routinely been denied visits from his family or even his lawyers. An online petition can be found at the Reporters Without Frontiers (RSF) site at www.rsf.org.

Another case is that of Yaghoub Mehmahad, journalist and secretary of the Javanan Sedaye Edalat NGO. No precise details of his so-called ‘crimes’ have ever been presented and at his trial neither his family, his lawyer or, indeed, the defendant was present yet he has been sentenced to death. His family last saw him in Zahedan prison in December and noted that he showed obvious signs of having been tortured.

Sadly the IWSN representatives were present to tell us that these examples are just the tip of a terrible iceberg. The JSF report for 2007 notes the following in relation to Iran: Dozens of journalists were arrested in 2006 for criticising the authorities and some were imprisoned in secret in difficult conditions without access to a lawyer. Fewer journalists are in jail but several are the targets of endless legal procedures and daily threats in the course of their work.

‘Since coming to power in August 2005, ultra-conservative President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his team of mainly former leaders of the Revolutionary Guards and the intelligence services have cracked down hard on journalists. In 2006, 38 journalists were arrested and a dozen media-outlets censored. …. Many journalists were also held in secret, without even basic rights. Things have not got better since then.

The IWSN was formed following an approach by exiled leaders of the Independent Workers’ Association of Iran to various opposition activists about setting up a campaign in defence of the new wave of activities and struggles taking place in the Iranian labour movement.

Iranian Workers’ Solidarity Network (IWSN) formally began its activities on 15 May 2001. It has been involved in supporting various independent labour committees in Iran, including Committee for the Pursuit of the Creation of Free Labour Organisations, Co-ordination Committee for the Creation of Labour Organisations, Workers’ Cultural and Support Organisation, the Union of Labour Committees and the Co-operation Council of Labour Organisations and Activists.

They have been active in defending the workers’ right to strike, the right to form independent trade unions and labour organisations and the right to elect their genuine representatives.

IWSN’s campaigns have included defending the ‘Saghez seven,’ the Iran Khodro auto workers, the Vahed bus drivers and their leader Mansour Osanloo.

Branch members can find out more about the IWSN and their work by going to www.iwsn.org or writing to them at BM IWSN, London, WC1N 3XX.

(Article from latest issue of Bylines – branch newsletter of the London Central NUJ)