March 9th, 2010 11:42 EST
Banned Iranian Journalist Mehrdad Balali Explains the Reasoning Behind the Recent Conflicting Treatment of Journalists in Iran
Mehrdad Balali, author of HOURI, a fictionalized autobiography based on his experiences as a journalist in Iran, says that Tuesday`s announcement of the shut down of two major Iranian publications in conjunction with the release of four imprisoned journalists, only alludes to the intense power struggle within the Islamic regime in Iran.
According to authorities, the two reformist publications shut down were among the last remaining in Iran that offered any dissent. The reasoning given behind the prohibition of these publications to print is law number six which forbids "revealing or publishing secret documents and orders" without a lawful permit.
Simultaneously, according to the Iran Labour News Agency, four journalists that had been in captivity since a December 27th protest were released on bail from Tehran`s Evin prison. The journalists had been arrested on the Muslim holy day of Ashura during one of the worst protests since the incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was re-elected.
Author Balali believes that the coincidence of these two opposing occurrences happening on the same day really highlights the strong power struggle within Iran`s Islamic regime. Balali says "Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is under immense pressure from both the pragmatic and the extremist camps, each trying to drag him in a different direction. While pragmatists close to former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjai urge him to work for unity with the Islamic establishment, hardliners are goading him to crack down on opposition leaders."
Balali understands the plight of journalists is post-revolutionary Iran all too well. He himself was banned by the Iranian secret service from working as a correspondent in September of 2000. He thinks that his trial was "a harbinger of the scarier times to come. Islamic hardliners have steadily tightened their grip on power and Iran has become the greatest prison for journalists, intellectuals and feminists, as we witness today".
In his novel, HOURI, Mehrdad Balali dramatizes some of his horrifying experiences during his decade-long stint as a foreign journalist in Iran, while balancing them with delicious and colorful cultural details about the ancient Persian land. He has worked for such outlets as Reuters, Agence France-Presse, CNN, the BBC and NPR, covering social and political upheavals in the Middle East, and is available to speak as an expert on the protests and constant political turmoil in Iran.
For more information about Mehrdad Balali and Houri, or to book him for an interview, please contact:
Tel: 310 454 3080
Judyth Piazza chats with Mehrdad Balali, Author of Houri