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Iran Stifles Independent Voices

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says that across the world there are women and men working “against great odds and at great risk” to secure their fundamental rights:

“Regrettably, some governments have responded to growing demands for personal and political freedom, not by accepting their obligations to their people, but by oppressing those seeking to exercise fundamental freedoms of expression, association, and peaceful assembly.”

One of those governments is Iran. The press freedom organization Reporters Without Borders cites the case of Jila Bani Yaghoub, a reporter for the newspaper “Sarmayeh.” A year ago, along with thirty two-others, she was arrested for peacefully protesting the trial of five Iranian women. The women had helped to organize an equal rights demonstration in Tehran in 2006. Among other things, Ms. Yaghoub has been charged with “participating in an illegal demonstration”.

Other journalists and women’s rights defenders who attended the demonstration have also faced prosecution. In a related development, the Iranian government has reportedly suspended the monthly women’s magazine “Zanan.” “Zanan” has been publishing for sixteen years and served as a forum for discussion of Iranian women’s issues and achievements.

According to Reporters Without Borders, the Commission for Press Authorization and Surveillance in Iran complained that “Zanan” was “publishing information detrimental to society’s psychological tranquility” and was “offering a somber picture of the Islamic Republic.”

As U.S. officials have said, a free press and active civil society are fundamental elements of any democracy and are essential to the ability of the Iranian people to protect their basic rights. The United States continues to call on the Iranian government to cease persecution of journalists and activists and to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms.