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Iran Journalists to Rouhani: Stop Lying!

With so many journalists jailed in Iran, including the Washington Post’s Jason Rezaian, reporters inside the country and out denounce the president’s smiling sophistry.
In a letter to President Hassan Rouhani, 135 Iranian reporters, editors and media workers from inside and outside Iran urged the president not to insult them by lying about the persecution of journalists in Iran.

The letter, published in Persian on IranWire, criticized Rouhani for recent comments he made during an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour.

During the interview, which took place while Rouhani was in the United States to attend a the United Nations General Assembly, Amanpour asked the president to comment on the case of Jason Rezaian, the jailed Washington Post journalist.

„I really don’t believe the fact at all,” he said. “I do not believe that an individual would be detained or put in prison for being a journalist.”

Technically, Rouhani is right, but the reality is very different. Most of those in prison are not charged with activities related to journalism. Instead, it’s “endangering the security of the nation,” “spreading propaganda,” “insulting the Supreme Leader.” In some cases, journalists are held on charges of “promoting corruption” or “prostitution.”

According to research conducted by IranWire, there are 65 professional and citizen journalists currently in prison in Iran. All of them were arrested because of their reporting. Since the disputed presidential election in 2009, almost 300 journalists have been arrested. Iran has the highest number of women journalists in prison, and hundreds of Iranian journalists are forced to live in exile.

In their letter to Rouhani, which to date has 135 signatories, journalists asked him to honor his election promises: greater freedom for journalists, and a safer and more secure working environment. The letter is published in English below:

President Hassan Rouhani of Iran:

Your Excellency,

When you came to power in June 2013, you promised that you would create a more secure working environment for journalists and the media in our country.

Once again, in February 2014, you reminded the citizens of Iran of your election promises, stating that journalists should be entitled to greater security while doing their jobs. You said that shutting down a newspaper is not the right way to warn those who may have infringed on the law.

We, the undersigned, hoped you would take serious and practical measures to fulfill your promises. Yet more than a year after resuming office, the demands and expectations of journalists have not been realized. In fact, in an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, you denied that there was anyone in jail in Iran for their work as a journalist.

You were once critical of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s administration and its habit of concealing and denying the truth. Your recent denial that a problem even exists echoes this sentiment, and reminds us of its impact.

We, the undersigned journalists, believe that it is unethical, unprofessional and insulting to deny the fact that, today, many journalists remain in prison in Iran for doing their jobs. Moreover, a number of journalists have been imprisoned during your presidency.

In our country, security agents regularly imprison journalists, denying them their basic rights simply for carrying out their duty: to inform the public. As the head of the executive branch, and as the second highest official of the land, whose responsibility includes supervising the execution of the constitution by different branches of the government, it is your duty to improve the situation of Iranian journalists.

At the very least, we expect you to correct your false statement concerning imprisoned journalists in Iran. But we hope for more, and we ask you to fulfill your promises to create a more secure environment for journalists in our country.

Signatories:

– Aida Ghajar

– Ahmad Rafat

– Alieh Motalebzadeh

– Ali Asghar Ramezanpour

– Ali Shirazi

– Ali Mazrouei

– Alireza Latifian

– Amirhossein Mossala

– Arash Bahmani

– Arash Ashourinia

– Arash Azizi

– Behdad Bordbar

– Behrouz Samadbeygi

– Bijan Farhoudi

– Darioush Memar

– Delbar Tavakoli

– Ehsan Mehrabi

– Elnaz Mohammadi

– Ershad Alijani

– Fatemeh Jamalpour

– Farshad Ghorbanpour

– Fereshte Ghazi

– Farshid Faryabi

– Farahmand Alipour

– Fariborz Soroush

– Farid Haeinejad

– Farideh Ghaeb

– Firouzeh Ramezanzadeh

– Hamid Eslami

– Hamidreza Ebrahimzadeh

– Hanif Mazrouei

– Homayoun Kheiri

– Hossein Alavi

– Javad Heidarian

– Isa Saharkhiz

– Kamyar Behrang

– Kaveh Ghoreishi

– Khatereh Vatankhah

– Ladan Salami

– Lida Ayaz

– Lida Hosseininejad

– Leila Sa’adati

– Leili Nikounazar

– Maziar Bahari

– Maziar Khosravi

– Mana Neyestani

– Mani Tehrani

– Mahrokh Gholamhosseinpour

– Mojtaba Najafi

– Majid Saeedi

– Mohammad Aghazadeh

– Mohammad Tangestani

– Mohammad Hossein Nejati

– Mohammad Rahbar

– Mohammad Ghadamali

– Mohammad Kassaeizadeh

– Mohammadreza Nassababdollahi

– Mahmoud Farjami

– Morteza Kazemian

– Marjan Tabatabaei

– Maryam Amiri

– Maryam Jafari

– Maryam Shahsamandi

– Maryam Majd

– Mazdak Alinazari

– Masoud Behnoud

– Masoud Safiri

– Masoud Kazemi

– Masoud Lavasani

– Mostafa Khalaji

– Maliheh Mohammadi

– Mansoureh Farahani

– Mahdi Tajik

– Mehdi Jami

– Mehdi Ghadimi

– Mehdi Mahmoudian

– Mehdi Vazirbani

– Mehdi Mohseni

– Mehran Faraji

– Mehraveh Kharazmi

– Mehrad Abolghassemi

– Mehrdad Hojati

– Mehrdad Mashayekhi

– Mitra Khalatbari

– Meisam Youssefi

– Milad Beheshti

– Minou Momeni

– Nazanin Kazemi

– Nazanin Matin’nia

– Nasrin Zahiri

– Naeimeh Doustdar

– Negin Behkam

– Noushabeh Amiri

– Noushin Pirouz

– Nikahang Kowsar

– Nima Dehghani

– Niousha Saremi

– Omid Montazeri

– Parvaneh Vahidmanesh

– Panah Farhadbahman

– Pourya Souri

– Reza Ansarirad

– Reza Haghighatnejad

– Reza Rafiei

– Reza Shokrollahi

– Rouzbeh Mirebrahimi

– Roya Maleki

– Reihaneh Mazaheri

– Sara Damavandan

– Saghi Laghaei

– Sam Mahmoudi Sarabi

– Sanaz Ghazizadeh

– Sepideh Behkam

– Sahar Bayati

– Soroush Farhadian

– Saeid Shams

– Saeideh Amin

– Soulmaz Eikder

– Siamak Ghaderi

– Seyyed Mojtaba Vahedi

– Sina Shahbaba

– Shabnam Shabani

– Shahram Rafizadeh

– Shahrzad Hemati

– Shohreh Asemi

– Shirzad Abdollahi

– Shirin Famili

– Shima Shahrabi

– Saba Sherdoust

– Sadra Mohaghegh

– Tahereh Rahimi

– Tara Bonyad

– Taraneh Baniyaghoub

– Touka Neyestani

– Youssef Azizi Banitorof

Rouhani

This article was republished from IranWire.

Twenty Questions for Iranian President Hassan Rouhani

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani arrives at the United Nations in New York.Iranian President Hassan Rouhani landed in New York on Monday and began a blitz of media and official meetings on the sidelines of the annual United Nations General Assembly sessions. During his stay, Rouhani will engage with carefully selected groups of journalists, academics, and business people. He will undoubtedly be queried on a wide variety of topics, including the U.S. air campaign against militant groups in Iraq and Syria, the nuclear negotiations, and his first-year track record. He may also be probed about his views of the Holocaust, an issue that his predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and other Iranian leaders have often used to stoke controversy, and about the steady drumbeat of human rights abuses committed by the Iranian government, including the July arrest of an Iranian-American correspondent for the Washington Post.

Rouhani brings to these conversations the sharp debate skills of his varied experience — as a cleric, a bureaucrat, and a retail politician who served five terms in Iran’s boisterous parliament. His performance in televised interviews and press conferences, as well as his compelling memoir of the early nuclear negotiations, demonstrate that unlike Ahmadinejad, he is capable of engaging in a genuine give-and-take. Here are some of the questions I’d put to Iran’s president during his U.S. visit this week:

  1. Eighteen months ago, when you were considering a bid for the presidency, you noted that „conditions [within Iran] are ripe for a moderate way of thinking.“ Do you still believe this to be the case, and can moderate leadership overcome the continuing role of those Iranian political forces that advocate more extreme policies?
  2. Each of your predecessors has experienced significant difficulties in advancing his agenda due to domestic opposition in his second term, if not earlier. Do you think you can avoid a similar fate?
  3. Your presidency follows 16 years when the executive branch was led by men who were, in very different fashion, quite polarizing within the Iranian establishment, reformist Mohammad Khatami and hard-liner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. You have sought to carve out a less factionalized presidency, one that draws upon the entire political elite from hard-liners to reformists. But you have experienced vocal opposition to many of your policies and appointees. Is it possible to transcend Iran’s well-entrenched factionalism?
  4. You worked closely with Mir Husayn Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi in their respective roles as prime minister and speaker of the parliament during the 1980s and 1990s. They have now spent more than three and a half years under a very severe form of house arrest. Have you personally sought to secure their release?
  5. You have openly advocated expanding internet access and removing filtering and other forms of censoring the web. However, there is still powerful opposition within both the government itself and among many prominent clerics, and Iranians are still forced to use circumvention techniques to access applications like Twitter that you and your ministers use routinely. How can your government overcome the objections within the political establishment to unfettered internet access and, more broadly to lifting other restrictions on freedom of speech?
  6. Your economic agenda has sought to mitigate the impact of sanctions while your diplomacy has focused on eliminating them. Do you believe that Iran could survive and prosper if the current sanctions remain in place indefinitely? If there is no agreement, and new sanctions are imposed targeting Iran’s remaining oil exports, can your efforts to create jobs and growth while reducing inflation succeed?
  7. What role, if any, did the behind-the-scenes talks between U.S. and Iranian officials that took place prior to your June 2013 election have in persuading Iranian leaders that it was time for a shift in their approach to the nuclear negotiations?
  8. If a comprehensive agreement cannot be reached by the November 24 deadline, would you support efforts to continue diplomacy with the P5+1? How will Iran react if a deal is not concluded and the U.S. Congress moves to adopt new unilateral sanctions against Iran?
  9. Having personally led the negotiations on the nuclear issue in the early years of this impasse, do you support proposals by some Iranian officials to link the nuclear talks with cooperation on the regional crisis? Would broadening the agenda of the negotiations with the P5+1 be constructive or would it undermine the prospects for resolving either set of issues?
  10. Do you have confidence in President Obama’s capability to fulfill any commitments made as part of a comprehensive nuclear agreement? Are you concerned about the U.S. electoral cycle, and the possibility that the president’s successor may not be willing to adhere to a deal?
  11. You recently told an American interviewer that a „close relationship between the two nations [Iran and the United States] can resolve many problems…We have to look at future more than the past.“ Are there issues on which you believe Washington and Tehran could engage constructively or even cooperate? Would you support revising the „no contact“ policy that both governments still adhere to in all diplomatic interactions except for the nuclear talks?
  12. You have described the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS as „ridiculous“ and this week’s airstrikes on the group’s positions in Syria as „illegal.“ Are there any conditions under which Tehran would support a political solution to the Syrian civil war that removed Bashar al Assad and his inner circle from government? Given Iran’s longstanding alliance with the Assad regime and the horrifying toll of this conflict on the Syrian people and the security of the region, what is Iran prepared to do to facilitate an end to the bloodshed?
  13. This week marks the 34th anniversary of the Iraqi invasion of Iran. How did this experience shape your view of the world, and that of other revolutionary leaders? Since you, like the supreme leader and many other senior Iranian officials, were deeply involved with the war effort, how do you view Iran’s relationship with Iraq and role in Iraqi politics today? Is it possible for Iran play a constructive role in building a democratic, nonsectarian Iraq?
  14. In Yemen, Houthi rebels who have long been backed by Tehran have just ousted the country’s prime minister. Will you support a democratic, inclusive Yemeni government? How will the shift in Yemen impact your efforts to promote rapprochement with Riyadh?
  15. During your New York stay, you are scheduled to meet with David Cameron, a first for an Iranian president and a British prime minister since the revolution. Last year, you spoke with President Obama by telephone during your UNGA visit. Can these unprecedented personal overtures to the leaders of countries with which Iran’s relations have been strained provide a pathway to a durable bilateral rapprochement?
  16. In recent weeks, there have been news reports of several sizeable trade deals signed by Iranian and Russian officials. Do you see Moscow as an attractive economic and strategic partner for Iran? Based on your long bilateral history, and Russia’s performance in the construction of the Bushehr power plant, do you have confidence in Moscow’s reliability to fulfill its commitments to Iran?
  17. Iran has recently undertaken joint naval exercises with China in the Persian Gulf. Would Iran welcome a more substantial role for China in ensuring the security of energy flow from the region?
  18. Earlier this year, there was a controversy surrounding Iran’s nominee for its United Nations envoy, Hamid Aboutalebi, over his role as a translator to the students who overran the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in November 1979 and held its staff hostage for 444 days. President Obama signed a bill with overwhelming Congressional support to reject Mr. Aboutalebi’s visa request. Mr. Aboutalebi continues to serve as your deputy chief of staff for political affairs and an important advisor. Were you surprised that the Embassy seizure remains such a sensitive issue for Americans? Will Iran nominate another individual in his place?
  19. Beyond the Iranian diaspora community, there is still very limited direct contact between Americans and Iranians today. In 2006, one of your predecessors, Mohammad Khatami, engaged in a U.S. speaking tour. If you could invite one American – a politician, a business leader, or a cultural figure – to Iran to see the country and hear from its people first-hand, who would that be?
  20. You were awarded a doctoral degree by Glasgow Caledonian University, which makes you the first Iranian president since Abolhassan Bani Sadr, who was impeached and forced to flee the country in July 1981, to have studied in the West. How does that impact your views of Iran’s relations with the world? Would you advise future Iranian leaders to explore opportunities to study in Europe, America or elsewhere in the world?

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