Iran Arrests Journalists Linked to Foreign Press
Iran arrested more than ten journalists for allegedly cooperating with foreign Persian-language media. The journalists work for reformist papers Arman, Bahar, Etemaad, Shargh, and the Aseman weekly and Iran’s ILNA labor news agency. Although these outlets have not encouraged outright dissent, they have commented on Iran’s economic difficulties and have criticized some government policies. The Iranian government emphasized that the journalists had been arrested based on security accusations rather than media law violations. Last week, Iran’s judiciary spokesman Gholam Hossein Mohseni-Ejei said, “Based on information I have from reliable sources, unfortunately a number of journalists, as well as writing for the nation’s newspapers, work hand-in-hand with Westerners and anti-revolutionaries.”
Iran views several foreign Persian-language media outlets, including BBC Persian, Voice of America, and Radio Farda, as hostile arms of foreign governments and has warned of consequences for journalists connected to these organizations. The Iranian government has often accused Western powers of attempting to use the media to incite unrest in Iran. Some observers have claimed that the recent arrests reflect a crackdown on the media in preparation for Iran’s elections in June.
An Iranian court also sentenced Saeed Abedini, a Christian pastor, to eight years in prison for undermining state security by establishing a network of Christian churches. Spokesman Darby Holladay said the State Department is calling on Iran to release Abedini. Holladay also expressed concern regarding the fairness of Abedini’s trial because his attorney was only allowed one day to present his defense.