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7/20/03 - IRANIAN ASSAULT ON PRESS - 2003-07-22

More and more Iranians are speaking out against their country’s corrupt and oppressive Islamic fundamentalist regime. In an effort to squelch these protests, Iran’s unelected clerical rulers have mounted an assault on the press and the free flow of information.

A number of Iranian journalists have been jailed. And a few days ago, an Iranian official admitted that a Canadian-Iranian journalist had been beaten to death after being detained. Iranian Vice President Mohammad Ali Abtahi said the journalist, Zahra Kazemi, died from a brain hemorrhage caused by beatings she received during or after her arrest on June 23rd. Ms. Kazemi, a Canadian free-lance photographer of Iranian origin, was reportedly arrested while taking pictures of a Tehran prison where political prisoners are held.

That is not all. Iranian government agents have been blocking radio and television broadcasts from abroad. Satellite television programs that have been jammed include those of Iranian exiles in Los Angeles as well as some of the Voice of America’s nightly Persian-language news telecasts from Washington. And Iran regularly jams Radio Farda, a U.S.-government-funded station that broadcasts music and news for Iranian young people.

There are indications that Iran may be getting help in its jamming efforts from Fidel Castro’s Communist regime in Cuba. The U.S. government is looking into this issue, including by taking it up directly with the Cuban regime.

The Broadcasting Board of Governors supervises V-O-A, Radio Farda, and all other U.S.-government-supported non-military international broadcasting. As B-B-G Chairman Kenneth Tomlinson said, the jamming “is illegal, represents a major threat to satellite communication, and must be stopped.”

Such assaults on the free flow of information would stop very fast if Iran’s unelected rulers would heed the calls of the Iranian people for freedom and democracy. That’s the kind of change, said U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher, “that would be good for Iran and good for Iran’s place in the world.”