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Release Iranian Journalist Bani-Yaghoub

Zhila Bani-Yaghoub speaks on the telephone in her office in Tehran in this file photo.
Zhila Bani-Yaghoub speaks on the telephone in her office in Tehran in this file photo.

Award-winning Iranian journalist Zhila Bani-Yaghoub is jailed in Evin prison.

In advance of World Press Freedom Day on May 3rd, the U.S. State Department has been highlighting cases of journalists around the world who are suffering because they dared exercise their right to free expression. One of them is award-winning Iranian journalist Zhila Bani-Yaghoub.

Release Iranian Journalist Bani-Yaghoub
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During a briefing at the Foreign Press Center in Washington, Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Tara Sonenshine spoke of Ms. Bani-Yaghoub:

“The editor of the ‘Focus on Iranian Woman’ website, she has been jailed . . . at Evin prison for articles she wrote during the 2009 presidential election. Her charge, and I quote: ‘spreading propaganda against the system,’ unquote, and, I quote, ‘insulting the president.’ She’s been banned from practicing journalism for 30 years.”

Ms. Bani-Yaghoub, as Under Secretary Sonenshine pointed out, had previously been tried and acquitted on similar charges three previous times since 2009. Her husband, journalist Bahman Amoyee was released on furlough in March 2013 after serving three years of a five-year prison term on charges similar to Ms. Bani-Yaghoub’s.

In 2009 the International Women’s Media Foundation awarded Zhila Bani-Yaghoub the Courage in Journalism Prize and Reporters without Borders gave her the 2010 Freedom of Speech Award.

The Iranian government has long been a ruthless oppressor of journalists who report on issues and events the regime wants to disregard or who express views contrary to officially-sanctioned orthodoxy. With 45 journalists in prison at the end of 2012, Iran remains one of the world’s worst jailers of journalists.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which Iran has ratified, says, “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

As State Department Deputy Spokesperson Patrick Ventrell said at a recent press briefing, “We call on the government of Iran to protect this fundamental human right for all its citizens and to support press freedom by releasing journalists unjustly imprisoned for their work."