Iran: the crackdown continues

This is a guest post by Saeed Kamali Dehghan

It’s nearly two months since Iran put some of the most prominent reformist journalists in jail and intimidated the rest by admitting to the use of torture. The regime has denied that any of the reported deaths were a direct result of torture, but reports from released prisoners suggest that some of the dead prisoners may have been tortured severely. Last month, Mehdi Karoubi, a former presidential candidate, sent a letter to Hashemi Rafsanjani, the head of Iran’s expediency council, stating that he had been given information alleging that prisoners had been raped.

Iran has also started to clamp down on the Internet by filtering yet more websites. Members of social networking sites have been warned that if they are politically active they will be identified and arrested. Some Facebook and Twitter users, as well as individuals distributing emails among friends with protest news, have reportedly been detained.

Iranian journalists are now faced with little choice but to exercise self-censorship for fear of joining their colleagues in prison. Last week, the office of the Association of the Iranian Journalists (AOIJ) was closed. AIOJ is the representative of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) in Iran and is the only independent association for Iranian reporters. The office was sealed after a warrant from the Tehran prosecutor was issued last Wednesday at midnight. The move came the night before the association was due to hold an annual gathering to choose its head of assembly.

Meanwhile, the Islamic regime celebrated Iran’s national day of journalists last Saturday as the crackdown on freedom of expression continued. The day coincided with the show trial of more than 100 political activists, journalists and former politicians who stood in the dock charged with acting against national security and plotting against the ruling system.

The prisoners have had no access to lawyers or, in most cases, permission to call their families since their arrest. Ahmad Zeydabadi and Mohammad Ghoshani are among the most prominent Iranian journalists. Zeydabadi is an active member of AOIJ who spent 13 months in prison nine years ago, when Mohammad Khatami was president. Over the past 20 years,  Zeydabadi, a veteran journalist, has written for a number of different reformist papers in Iran such as Shargh, a banned daily, Shahrvand-e-Emrooz, a banned weekly and Etemaad-e-Melli, a current reformist newspaper affiliated to reformist Mehdi Karoubi. Mohammad Ghochani, the 33-year-old editor-in-chief of Eetemaad-e-Melli,  has also been in jail for a month.

Saeed Kamali Dehghan is Tehran correspondent for the Guardian