Reporters Without Borders urges the international community, especially European countries, not to recognise the results of the first round of the presidential election that Iran held on 12 June because censorship and a crackdown on journalists are preventing a democratic electoral process. Arrests of journalists and media censorship measures are growing as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s “victory” continues to be disputed.
“A democratic election is one in which the media are free to monitor the electoral process and investigate fraud allegations but neither of these two conditions has been met for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s supposed reelection,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We urge European countries not to recognise the results announced by the authorities as long as the media are not free to work. An election won by means of censorship and arrests of journalists is not democratic.”
In addition to the 10 or so pro-opposition websites already censored, two Farsi-language TV stations were partially jammed yesterday and the mobile phone network was disrupted. Ahmadinejad supporters continued to pressure Iranian news media not to carry reports about election fraud. Four of the main pro-reform newspapers have been closed or prevented from criticising the official election results.
Reporters Without Borders has been able to confirm that journalists Reza Alijani (winner of the 2001 Reporters Without Borders-Fondation de France press freedom prize), Hoda Sabaer, Ahamad Zeydabadi and Taghi Rahmani have been arrested. There is no word of about 10 other journalists who have either been arrested or gone into hiding.
The blocking of access to foreign news media has been stepped up. In addition to the blocking of the BBC’s website, the Farsi-language satellite broadcasts of the VOA and BBC – which are very popular in Iran – have been partially jammed. The Internet is now very slow, like the mobile phone network. YouTube and Facebook are hard to access and pro-reform sites such as Khordadeno (http://khordadeno.com/), AftabNews (http://aftabnews.ir/index.php) and Ghalamesabz (http://ghalamesabz.com/) are completely inaccessible.
Said Shariti, the editor of the news website Nooroz, has been arrested. The foreign media have also been the victims of police violence. A member of a TV crew working for the Italian station RAI and a Reuters reporter were beaten by police in the capital. A BBC TV crew was being threatened by police at one point, but demonstrators chased the police away.
Independent Iranian journalists told Reporters Without Borders that a climate of fear has taken hold in the main cities. Several opposition politicians, including Mohsen Mir Dadamadi of the Islamic Participation Party, were arrested yesterday. The news centre operated by Mirhossein Mousavi, Ahmadinejad’s leading rival, was ransacked yesterday by Ahmadinejad supporters, who destroyed its computers. The Qalam News agency operated out of this centre.
The state-owned media are just reporting the announcements of Ahmadinejad’s victory and the results issued by the interior ministry.
Mousavi and fellow presidential candidate Mehdi Karoubi have urged the population not to accept the “rigged results.” There have been violent clashes between opposition supporters and security forces, with at least one death in the capital.