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Published:August 22nd, 2007 03:53 EST
Iran's Intolerance of Free Press

Iran's Intolerance of Free Press

By SOP newswire

Washington -- The July 16 sentencing to death of two Iranian journalists is another example of what is viewed as the Iranian regime`s intolerance " for the expression of independent views.

A number of global human rights groups have joined the U.S. State Department`s condemnation of the Iranian government for handing out the death sentences to journalists Adnan Hassanpour and Abdolvahed Butimar.  The State Department says the death sentences mark an intensification of the Iranian regime`s campaign against a free press in the country.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said in an August 15 statement that the two journalists were given death sentences after a fundamentally flawed trial. "

McCormack said the death sentences show the Iranian government`s willingness to both trample on the rights of its citizens and disregard the most basic standards of acceptable international behavior. "

McCormack said a significant number of Iranian editors, journalists and bloggers have been harassed, arrested and convicted for exercising their universal right to freedom of expression and assembly. "

WORLDWIDE PROTEST OF DEATH SENTENCES

The European Union said in an August 3 statement that it was particularly troubled " by the growing repression against all groups in Iran that are trying to exercise their right to freely express their opinions. "

The European Union said Iran should halt the two journalists` executions and ensure that they are given a fair trial in accordance with the country`s own laws and the United Nations` International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, of which Iran is a signatory.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said August 6 that it was alarmed " by the death sentences handed out and that Iranian authorities must provide a fair and transparent legal process " for the two men.

Amnesty International and the Paris-based press advocacy group Reporters Without Borders are urging the global community to appeal to Iran`s government to stop the executions.

Reporters Without Borders says that with 11 Iranian journalists in prison for trying to do their jobs, Iran continues to be the Near East`s biggest prison for the press and one of the world`s 10 most repressive countries regarding freedom of expression in the media. "  The watchdog group has put Iran`s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, on its list of the world`s 34 worst press freedom predators. "

Reporters Without Borders said the sentencing to death by hanging of the two Iranian journalists was outrageous and shameful. "  The group is asking the international community to sign its petition calling on Iran`s government to release the journalists immediately.

The recent prison sentences meted out to other journalists in Iran signify that the human rights situation in the country is getting worse by the day, " said Reporters Without Borders.

The independent nongovernmental group Freedom House said press freedom in Iran continued to decline in 2006 as the regime`s conservative leaders cracked down on reformist publications and journalists through intimidation, closures and arrests. "

The Washington-based group said in its annual survey of press freedom around the world that the Iranian public has responded to the shrinking space for free expression " by increasingly turning to the Internet, as well as satellite television and radio.  The government reacted by escalating its efforts to filter the Internet and register individual Web sites, as well as continuing its arrest of bloggers and other online activists.

Another nongovernmental group, Human Rights Watch, reports that student editors and activists in Iran who were arrested in May and June on "politically motivated charges" have been subjected to beatings, 24-hour interrogation sessions, sleep deprivation and threats at the hands of the authorities who are trying to extract confessions of alleged subversive crimes.

The full text of McCormack`s statement and more information on human rights in Iran are available on the State Department`s Web site.

The statements by the Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters Without Borders are on the groups` Web sites.

The Freedom House report on Iran is contained in the group`s survey on press freedom worldwide.

For more information, see Freedom of the Press.

(USINFO is produced by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

By Eric Green
USINFO Staff Writer