Iran: more reporters held

The author is an Iranian who wishes to remain anonymous

The crackdown on the post-election protests in Iran has had several dimensions. The most visible aspect is the overwhelming security presence on the streets of Tehran and other cities, and the actual physical attacks on the protestors, which have led to several dozen deaths and many injuries so far. The least visible aspect is the media war and the state’s unceasing efforts to monopolise the sources of information. Somewhere between these two very visible and not-so-visible aspects falls the campaign of arrests and detentions. Although the Iranian authorities are increasingly accusing Britain and other western countries of being behind the protests, they have not been shy about arresting many reformist activists and journalists in Iran as well. The legal authority behind the arrests is Saeed Mortazavi, Tehran’s chief prosecutor. In a previous incarnation, Mortazavi was the press court judge when many reformists papers were banned after the brief press “spring” that followed Mohammad Khatami’s election as president in 1997. So Mortazavi’s battle against reformist activists and journalists is long-standing.
The arrest of Mohammad Ghouchani, editor-in-chief of newspaper Etemaad Melli (National Confidence), published by reformist presidential candidate Mehdi Karrubi’s party, is fairly typical and is described on this page of the newspaper: Ghouchani is the young smiling face on the left-hand side of the page. The column underneath, headlined “Editor-in-chief’s arrest” describes his arrest as follows:

“Mohammad Ghouchani, editor in chief of Etemaad Melli, was arrested at two o’clock in the morning on Saturday. No reasons for his arrest were given to him or his wife, Maryam Baghi [daughter of human rights activist Emadeddin Baghi]. At two o’clock on Saturday morning, about six security personnel went to his house and said that they had a warrant for his arrest. The security personnel took Mohammad Ghouchani from his home to the Etemaad Melli newspaper office and filmed him alongside his computer and his personnel effects, and then took him away.”

Maryam Baghi told Etemaad Melli: “Our efforts to find out what Ghouchani is being charged with did not lead anywhere. They only said that the reason for his arrest was the recent events. Of course, ‘recent events’ is not a charge and, if they detain someone, they should explain what he is being charged with…”

A recent editorial by Ghouchani is also re-produced in the column underneath his picture and the account of his arrest. In the editorial, Ghouchani said that nowadays, it is easy to become a journalist in Iran, but it is difficult to die a journalist (because newspapers are banned so often that no one can remain a journalist for very long). Ghouchani has been the editor-in-chief of several now-banned papers.

Read RSF’s list of jailed Iranian journalists and bloggers here