Abdorrahman Boroumand Center

for Human Rights in Iran

Promoting tolerance and justice through knowledge and understanding
Reporters Without Borders

Journalists going missing in Iran, those based abroad getting death threats

Reporters Without Borders
March 1, 2011

Mir Hossein Mousavi, owner of the suspended newspaper Kalameh Sabaz, his wife, author Zahra Rahnavard, and Mehdi Karoubi, owner of the suspended Etemad Melli, and his wife have been arrested.

Gholam-Hossein Mohseni Ejei, the Tehran public prosecutor, told a press conference on 27 February that the two newspaper owners were under house arrest and barred from using telephones or the Internet. He did not say where they were being held or why they had been arrested.

Some reports claim the two couples are being held at a military prison in central Tehran.

Several Iranian journalists and writers living in exile have received death threats from Iranian intelligence agencies since 24 February.

Reporters Without Borders called on the Iranian government to reveal where Mousavi, Karoubi and their wives are being held, and why. Article 32* of the Iranian constitution requires this information to be released within 24 hours, it said.

The organisation also asked the United Nations Human Rights Council to appoint a special envoy to investigate the state of human rights in Iran.

The Iranian government often resorts to arbitrary arrests and keeps political prisoners in solitary confinement, which is an infringement of international law.

Several journalists and other Iranians living in exile have received anonymous threats by telephone, text message or email, such as "Stop your actions against the Islamic Republic or you will suffer the ultimate punishment" and "We order you to stop, otherwise you will pay."

Many reports of threats, summonses and anonymous phone calls from intelligence ministry agents have reached Reporters Without Borders in the past year and Iranians have been given police protection in several European countries. They have asked not to be identified. The organisation points out that their families in Iran have suffered harassment from the authorities.

After the 1979 revolution the Iranian government executed over 200 political opponents living abroad, most of them in Europe. The killers were never brought to trial because of blackmail by the Iranian government.

One of the few cases that came to court in a western country was that of exiled journalist and writer Reza Mazlouman, who was murdered on 27 May 1996 at his home in Créteil, France, for "insulting Islam and the Prophet." His killer was never arrested but an Iranian suspected of working for the Iranian secret service, Ahmad Jayhooni, was charged with involvement in the murder.

* Article 32

No-one may be arrested except in cases and according to methods laid down by the law. In the event of an arrest, the person(s) must immediately by told why and informed of any charges against them. A preliminary report must be sent to the relevant legal authorities within 24 hours and preparations for the trial must go ahead as soon as possible. Anyone who does not comply with this requirement will be punished in accordance with the law.