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In Iran, Journalism is an “Anti-State” Activity

 

www.theinvestigativefund.org

In its December 8 report, the Committee to Protect Journalists announced that Iran was the worst place in the world for journalists in 2011. According to this report, 179 writers, editors, and photojournalists have been imprisoned around the world this year, an increase of 34 from 2010. Iran is at the top of the list with 42 journalists behind bars; last year it shared the worst offender status with China, both with 34 imprisoned journalists.

CPJ notes: “For the first time in more than a decade, China did not lead (or jointly lead) the list of countries incarcerating journalists.” But the numbers in China didn’t decrease; Iran simply surpassed China in incarcerating journalists.

As an Iranian journalist, I wasn’t surprised. Last year, the French organization Reporters Without Borders, named Iran “the world’s biggest prison for journalists.”

As of January 2010, Iran had 42 journalists in prison. Even scarier, “36 parliamentarians who support President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad presented a bill under which detained government opponents would be regarded as “mohareb” (enemies of God) who should be executed “within a maximum of five days” of their arrest.” Since 2000, Iran has shut down more than 100 publications, accusing many of being “pawns of the West.”

But my lack of surprise about Iran’s terrible record on the safety of journalists and freedom of the press comes from personal experience.

Over a three-month period in the fall of 2004, security forces arrested a handful of journalists for online journalism. I was among them. We were the first group of Iranian journalists to use the Internet and to blog. For the past three years, I had my own blog in Farsi, I was then the editor at the political desk of Etemad, a reformist newspaper based in Tehran, and had been writing for various websites. The sites are no longer live, but they included Emrooz and Gooyanews. One of the eight charges against me was being anti-state, a common charge thrown at journalists detained in Iran and at everybody who is critical of the state. They leveled such heavy charges against us — “membership in illegal groups,” “spreading lies,” and hilariously, “having non-Islamic relationships with women” — that we thought we were likely to face a long-term prison sentence and that our dreams were ruined. I was placed under severe physical and mental pressure in prison. After two months in solitary confinement, I was so isolated that I broke and agreed to write the confession the security forces wanted me to write, apologizing and repenting for my deeds.

For my temporary release from prison, I had to declare my “repentance” and publish it in a public newspaper. The prosecutor kept my three friends in prison as hostages until I wrote and published the letter. I did as I promised and he then released them, one by one. Of course, they had to write their own repentance letters as well. The prosecutor also filmed us both in and out of prison and broadcast our confession on state television. Everything took place under great pressure, including threats to our families and to us.

After leaving prison on bail, in 2005 my friend Omid Memarian and I decided to reveal what had happened to the Truth-Finding Commission set up by President Mohammad Khatami and a team from the judiciary to investigate mistreatment of detainees. Once we visited Ayatollah Shahroudi, then the chief of Iran’s judiciary, the security forces sent us a message that we could all be killed in a car accident, just like so many others were.

Human Rights Watch, which released this statement in January 2005, four days after I testified to the commission, said:

Since their appearances before the commission, Saeed Mortazavi, chief prosecutor of Tehran, has threatened each of these former detainees with lengthy prison sentences and harm to their family members, as punishment for their testimony. Mortazavi continues to issue numerous subpoenas for the journalists without specifying charges. His operatives also harass the journalists by phone on a daily basis.

And:

The journalists’ testimonies exposed Mortazavi’s role in authorizing their torture to extract confessions and in compelling them to appear on television to deny their mistreatment while under detention.

After my release, I stayed in Iran for two more years waiting to be called back to prison at any minute. During that time, I tried to continue my work as a journalist, but the security forces did not allow it. I would be hired, and soon after, fired when the heads of publications were pressured to let me go. It was a struggle to support myself, and eventually, I left Iran in summer 2006 to go to Paris and then, later that year, New York, where I have been ever since.

Practicing journalism in Iran is very difficult. For example, investigative journalism is almost impossible. Perhaps as a result of the danger, there have been a few investigations into the intimidation, imprisonment, and execution of journalists and other dissidents in Iran during the last two decades. One was carried out by two prominent and award-winning Iranian investigative journalists, Emad Baghi and Akbar Ganji, during the first term (1997-2005) of the reformist president Mohammad Khatemi, which ended in their long-term imprisonment. Furthermore, the plight of Iranian journalists grew even worse after the 2009 post-election crackdown.

The list of arrested journalists during the past two years is so long, and there was a new wave of arrests of journalists and activists this past September. I can strongly say that all of my former colleagues are either in prison or temporarily free on bail, banned from journalism, or forced to leave the country. It is really sad and I don’t think the situation will get any better soon. I hope I see Iran some day at the top of the list of free countries that care about truth and dignity. In Iranian culture we have an expression: “It is not wrong for youth to wish big!” Sadly, safety for Iranian reporters is a very big wish. May it come true one day soon.

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Posted by on December 15, 2011 in Notes, Personality, Reports

 

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From Safety of New York, Reporting on Distant Home /NYT

 

 

Roozbeh Mirebrahimi, another alumnus of the CUNY program, worked for 10 years as a reporter and editor in Iran and was among the first journalists there to blog. In 2004 he was arrested and held in solitary confinement for two months, until he agreed to write a public confession saying he was a spy. In 2006 he left the country, ultimately landing in Brooklyn.

Mr. Mirebrahimi’s site, Iran dar Jahan (Iran in the World), features some original reporting, but its primary mission is to translate international news reports about Iran into Persian, so that Iranian readers can get a sense of what the world press has to say about their country. Iran had 28 million Web users as of 2009, according to the World Bank, the most in the Middle East. And while the government blocks access to Iran dar Jahan, many Iranians are adept at using proxy servers to gain access to banned sites. Mr. Mirebrahimi, who was sentenced in absentia by an Iranian court to two years in prison and 84 lashes, said his site had about 70,000 visitors a month.

“It would be impossible to do this kind of work inside Iran,” he said. “New York has been a great place to work from, because there are so many resources here and because the community is so welcoming to immigrants from all over the world.”

Of course, the ultimate dream for each of these far-flung publishers is to set off enough political change back home that exiles like themselves will one day be safe to return.

 

Read full story in The New York Times.

Photo: Chester Higgins Jr./The New York Times

 
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Posted by on November 19, 2011 in Article About Me, Interview

 

Is Iran’s Supreme Leader under pressure?

By Roozbeh Mirebrahimi

CyberDissidents.org 

September 28, 2011
One day Reza Shah Pahlavi, the king of Iran (1925-1941), sent a message to Seyyed Hassan Modarres, a member of parliament (1914-1925), warning him to “not push my buttons.” Modarres replied, “First, you should clarify which buttons you mean,” emphasizing that every topic was considered to be a point of contention with the oppressive Pahlavi. This quote remains famous in Iran, and unfortunately, remains applicable to the political situation in Iran, as well.Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader of Iran, recently appointed a mediator to resolve a dispute between President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the parliament. This dispute challenges the Ayatollah’s authority. The appointee, Ayatollah Mahmoud Shahroudi, is a supporter of Khamenei and will lead an Arbitration Body to investigate and tackle controversies within the ruling system.

The meaning of this appointment is disputed, although several reasons are being proposed.

One theory is that Khamenei felt that he was unable to fulfill his duties as “the regulator of powers” without an additional appointment. This is unlikely, however, because historically, the duty of government relationship regulation, specifically between the parliament and the judiciary, was the job of the president. In 1988, when the constitution was revised, this duty was transferred to the supreme leader. Khamenei transferring this duty to a new mediator is in line with his usual behavior — he generally rules by exerting indirect control all aspects of the political system, effectively absolving himself of any consequences if something goes wrong.

A second theory is that Khamenei learned his lesson after taking Ahmadinejad’s side following the disputed presidential election of 2009, a decision that hurt his reputation. Over the last few months, Khamenei has tried to end Ahmadinejad’s spats with the parliament and the revolutionary guard. But his speeches and orders could not assuage the fighting words, and Khamenei may have felt pressure to appoint another experienced politian to help solve the conflict. Khamenei’s failure to resolve the recent conflict is unprecedented. In the past, his statements were final and nobody could challenge him. Such was the case, for instance, when he banned normalizing the relationship between America and Iran 10 years ago.

Some experts believe that Khamenei wants to wipe out ex-president Rafsanji and his Expediency Council from the circle of power by curbing their influence. I disagree with these experts, as well. Rafsanjani, in fact, holds little real power since Khamenei must approve all of the Expediency Council’s decisions. More importantly, the powers of the Council are different than those of the new Arbitration Body.

The Expediency Council was formed in 1988 and its mission was to solve disagreements between the parliament and the Council of Guardians. Clerics, scholars, and intellectuals are members of the latter council. Over the time, Khamenei gave it new responsibilities and used the Expediency Council as an adviser.

When doing so, Khamenei referred to Part 1 of Article 110 of Constitution which states that the supreme leader has right to, “…delineation of the general policies of the Islamic Republic of Iran after consultation with the Expediency Council,” and also to Part 8 from the same article which states, “…resolving the problems, which cannot be solved by conventional methods, through the Expediency Council.” To create the new Arbitration Body, he used Part 7 from Article 110 which says, “…resolving differences between the three wings of the armed forces and regulation of their relations.” Therefore, the Expediency Council never had the authority to resolve conflicts, and we cannot claim that it’s power has been limited.

Furthermore, the people who are members of the Arbitration Body are known to be moderate conservatives, almost none of whom fully support Ahmadinejad. The head of this body is Ayatollah Shahrodi, who is a former Chief of Judiciary.

I met Shahrodi during my court case when I was in Iran. At the time, Shahrodi was the Chief of Judiciary. A few years ago his name was in an informal list of Assembly of Experts (a group of eighty six members of senior clergy; this group elects the supreme leader) for next supreme leader of Iranian regime. Ayatollah Khamenei spoke very highly of him when he appointed him as the head of the Arbitration Body.

The appointment of Ayatollah Mahmoud Shahroudi has two potential outcomes:  Khamenei using Shahrodi as a scapegoat if political order goes awry, or Shahrodi being on an accelerated path to be chosen as the next supreme leader. I believe, however, that after Ayatollah Khamenei steps down the opposition will take over and abolish the entire system of governance, and there will be no more supreme leaders in the regime.

Roozbeh Mirebrahimi is a well-known Iranian journalist. He worked for several reformist newspapers in Iran, leading to his arrest in 2004. His last job, before fleeing in 2006, was at the Etemad-e Melli newspaper. Mirebrahimi currently resides in New York and is the Editor-in-Chief at Iran Dar Jahan magazine.
 
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Posted by on September 28, 2011 in Notes

 

‘Let Them Burn Each Other Down’ – Interview with Prominent Iranian Journalist

CyberDissidents.org

July 29, 2011
Roozbeh Mirebrahimi is a well-known Iranian journalist. He worked for several reformist newspapers in Iran, leading to his arrest in 2004. His last job, before fleeing in 2006, was at the Etemad-e Melli newspaper. Mirebrahimi currently resides in New York and is the Editor-in-Chief at Iran Dar Jahan magazine. Iran’s 9th parliamentary election is scheduled for March 2, 2012. It will be the first election since the disputed presidential election of 2009. CyberDissidents.org interviewed Mirebrahimi about the current Iranian political situation.

What is the Green Movement’s latest status?

Well, the truth is, all the notable figures of the Green Movement are in prison. The government shut down all the political parties and groups that made up the political body of the Green Movement. Reformist newspapers have been shut down and only a couple of them reopened, like Etemad, Ruzegar, and Sharqh; but given all the limitations, they can’t do much. Additionally, leaders of the Green Movement [Mehdi Karroubi and Mir Hussein Musavi] are under house arrest. So, in fact, the Green Movement isn’t in a situation to do much or to be able to freely participate in the upcoming election.

Why should the Green Movement have even considered participating in the election? What guarantees that elections won’t be rigged again?Well, elections influence political and social life enormously, but the movement can look at it with two views. One, elections can be a tool for entering a body of power in Iran, like parliament; and two, it is an opportunity to rise again in the public view. Of course, there are many opinions about this in Iran. Some reformists prefer the first view and believe they should participate in elections; they wish to become at least a minority in parliament. But I think those people are few. The rest of the reformists believe that they should use the elections to get back into the political spotlight.

Based on what the Green Movement’s leaders think, I don’t think that they will participate in the upcoming election – unless the Islamic Republic decides to make a major change in its political system and gains political parties’ trust. But I do think the Green Movement will use the upcoming election as an opportunity to rise again and be active in society. If they can rise and get a large following again, they can bring change.

Brief us on who has the power in Iran now.

At the end of this year [Persian Calendar] Iranians expect an election. It’s the 9th term parliament election. Thus, it will be a very important year news-wise, and equality of power will be fractured.

At least two aspects of this upcoming election are worthy of attention. One, this election is the first one after the disputed presidential election of 2009 and its violent aftermath. Two, it is coming at a time when disagreements between the leaders of Iran are rising, particularly between Ayatollah Khamenei, the supreme leader, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president.

Actually, that was my next question. What do you think of this disagreement?

Disagreements and diverse opinions have always taken place in the Islamic Republic of Iran, even during the Iran-Iraq war. Usually, while a country is undergoing war, unity rises; but even war didn’t unite Iranian politicians for long. Even among the conservatives there have been problems and disagreements, and the highest pitch of it was on the presidential election in Iran in 2005 where at least three candidates from the conservatives were running in the election, if you don’t count Hashemi Rafsanjani (an ex-president) as a conservative candidate.

What we are witnessing today is an escalation of the same disagreement. Why is it occurring now? It’s the result of the violent aftermath of the last election. In the midst of crisis, different branches of conservatives found themselves with different interests and went after their own interests, which caused a new crisis of power within the Islamic Republic. The problem was exacerbated because the game of earning power has become more serious. Since many of the Green Movement’s figures are in prison and the other reformists are under pressure, the field is ripe for conservatives to compete.

Keep in mind that when I say they are fighting for power, I don’t mean only the prestige that comes with the position. They wish to dominate the income resources, oil, and intelligence services.

If you look at what Ahmadinejad and Khamenei have been fighting over, you can find evidence of this. They recently fought over the Intelligence Service minister’s dismissal, which the supreme leader was against. He then permitted the revolutionary guard to arrest Ahmadinejad’s ally. Ahmadinejad, in turn, leaked news about the revolutionary guard’s private jetties for oil smuggling. Then, the supreme leader started talking about “sedition” in order to gain unity, again.

So, what will happen?

I don’t actually know but I think it’s better for the reformists and Green Movement leaders step aside and watch the conservatives burn each other down. After Ahmadinejad called people ‘dust and dirt,’ he never again mentioned the Green Movement and sedition. I think he’s going to spar with Khamenei and put him in a difficult position.

 
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Posted by on July 30, 2011 in Notes

 

Read Iran dar Jahan

Find transalation into Farsi about Iran in our website:
www.irandarjahan.net

 
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Posted by on April 1, 2011 in Notes

 

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“Green Supporters Campaign” Call for Global Protest Against Illegal Detention of Green Leaders

“Green Supporters Campaign” made a call for global protest against the illegal detention and inhuman restrictions imposed on Green Leaders, Mir Hossein Mousavi, Mehdi Karroubi and their wives. According to the statement published in the Facebook page of his campaign the protest will take place on March 12, 2011 in numerous cities across the globe.

A Call by the Green Support Campaign Protesting the Arrest of Green Movement Leaders:

Dear compatriots, those who have paid the price for our vote are now awaiting our support. No matter where we all are, our green objection voices need to be heard by the people around the globe. For nearly a century, the international community has been observing the freedom seeking movement of the Iranian nation against dictatorship. Student movements and reformists were calling out for change leading up to the presidential elections in 2009. In the aftermath, for the past two years, we have witnessed the unified formation of the Green Movement by the glorious people of Iran, to confront a heavily militarized dictatorship and despotism with dignity and wisdom.

The popular Green Movement has faced the fiercest repression and confrontations by the Iranian regime since the elections. Some of our loved ones have been martyred. Many political activists and journalists have been imprisoned. The list include the names of many innocent individuals whose only crime was questioning ” Where is my vote?”

The regime, based on Supreme Leadership of the militarists in Iran, has now attempted to arrest the opposition leaders of the Green Movement, crossing all red line boundaries in it’s last inhumane efforts trying to suppress the continuation of the recent popular protests on February 14, 2011 and the spreading of more protests in other cities to date.

In unison and in a coordinated act, the supporters of the Green Movement outside of Iran are attempting to hold demonstrations in support of the Green Movement leaders Mir-Hossein Mousavi, Zahra Rahnavard, Mehdi Karroubi and Fatemeh Karroubi, by demanding the immediate and unconditional release of them. We are also requesting that international organizations follow up on the situation of the Green Movement leaders, the new and increased repressive atmosphere in Iran, and the inhumane activities of the Iranian regime; a regime that is unprecedented in violence and continually denies basic universal human rights to people of the nation.

Green Movement supporters and organizations outside of the country are asking our Iranian compatriots abroad to attend this coordinated movement in order to once again bring the voices of the justice seeking people of Iran to the attention of people of the world.

More details will be available soon regarding our coordinated activities in different cities around the world.

To the freedom of Green Movement leaders and all prisoners of conscious in Iran.

“The Dawn is Near…Be patient”

Green Support Campaign

Resource: Mir Hossein Mousavi ‘s facebook page

 
 

After long time “absent”!

It was long time that I didn’t write any post here. I was a little busy by our Magazine (www.irandarjahan.net) that I am running it as chief in editor. There are several things that I have to do and it make me some time crazy. As you might be know, “Iran dar Jahan” is a Farsi base publication that issue several things. There are daily base work, and weekly newsletter and also a monthly magazine. This magazine has been printing since March 2010.

How ever, I just want to say why I am not really active here. I am trying my best to be more active. I hope so!!!

 
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Posted by on March 11, 2011 in Notes

 
 
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