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Iran October 8, 2010
H.E Mahmud Ahmedinejad
Office of the President
Islamic Republic of Iran
Fax: (011.98.211) 646.6415
We write again with rising distress and anger concerning your government’s alarming treatment of the press inside your country. The on-going intimidation through threats, arrests, and harsh imprisonments is not allayed by your occasional release of a well-known personality, though in each case, we are of course relieved for such an individual. The brutality of the government’s office and the military police and courts is dishonorable — if not illegal — in the view of global governance forces; and, in any case, repugnant to those of us who are professional journalists and struggle to communicate the stories of the day with assurance and dignity. As members of the Freedom of the Press Committee of the Overseas Press Club of America, we speak out to you.
We write of three particular instances recorded world-wide in the month of September just past. They include :
Emadeddin Baqi, a widely respected journalist, well known for his battles for human rights, was condemned to six years’ imprisonment on September 22. Charged with anti-establishment propaganda and undermining national security, Mr. Baqi, in effect, was shown on BBC in Parsi in a video interview with Ayatollah Hussein Ali Montazeri in December 2009, just days after the Ayatollah’s death. Montazeri was a long-time critic of your government’s policies. It is a basic principle of press freedom and of democratic rights that non-violent critics of the government may express their views. If there is any “offense” in this case, it should be attributed to the military court for Mr. Baqi’s inappropriate sentence.
Isa Saharkhiz, who had campaigned in the June 2009 elections for the reformist candidate, the cleric, Mehdi Karroubi, has long been an advocate of an independent press. Mr.Saharkhiz is said to be in poor health as a result of harsh physical treatment in prison since his arrest in July, 2009.
It is true that during his trial he called for the prosecution of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khameini for violating the constitution and for his silence about the torture of political prisoners; for this offense, Mr.Saharkhiz received a two-year sentence and an additional year for issuing “propaganda” against the government. The real issue again, Mr. President, is not the supposed guilt of the prisoner, but your government’s crack-down on the media and your cruel repression of freedom of expression by convicting honorable men and women of crimes that are non-existent.
Hossein Derakhshan had lived outside Iran in Canada and Great Britain and has dual Canadian and Iranian citizenships, though Iran refuses to recognize that. After being arrested while reporting as a Canadian blogger, Mr. Derakhshan has already spent two years in detention. In September, he was sentenced to ten years in prison for “cooperating with hostile governments” and for setting up Web sites that “insult sanctities and use language that is vulgar and obscene.” Such dis-proportionate sentences for vaguely defined offenses demean the Islamic Republic of Iran in the eyes of the world.
Your Excellency, the crack-down is not a rumor, nor is it a minor element in your country’s decline among the nations willing and proud to cooperate on the civil liberties and human rights which you are violating day after day. We call upon you to reverse these actions and to free all your political prisoners.
May we request and expect the courtesy of a reply?
Freedom of the Press Committee
Ali Hossein Khamenei, Ayatollah
Leader of the Islamic Revolution
Islamic Republic of Iran
Fax: (011.98.211) 646.4373
Ambassador Mohammad Karzee
Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran
to the United Nations
633 Third Avenue, 34th floor
New York, NY 10017
Fax: (212) 867.7086
U.S, Interest Section
c/o Embassy of Switzerland (Golestan 5th)
39 Shahid Moussavi
Fax: (011.98.211) 22.58.04.32
Iranian Interest Section
c/o Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan
2209 Wisconsin Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20007
Fax: (202) 965.1073
Under Secretary of State for Democracy
and Global Affairs
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20520