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Pro-Rouhani Editor Arrested Ahead of May 2017 Elections Remains Detained Without Charge

CHRI - The family of Tahereh Riahi, an editor who has been detained since December 2016 without charge, is calling on President Hassan Rouhani to "keep his word on individual liberties and the rights of citizens" and facilitate Riahi's release, an informed source told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI).

Reformist Journalist: Hardliners Working to Sabotage Rouhani Campaign With Intimidation Tactics

CHRI - By preventing speeches in favor of President Hassan Rouhani and blocking his campaigners from reaching voters, hardliners are trying to weaken the incumbent president ahead of the May 19, 2017 election, a reformist journalist told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI)

Rohani Campaign Suffers as Pro-Administration Journalists are Detained

Rohani Campaign Suffers as Pro-Administration Journalists are DetainedRadiozamaneh - The recent arrest of a number of administrators of Telegram social networking Channels continues to fuel tensions between Iran’s administration and the judiciary.

Telegram is a cloud-based instant messaging application popular in Iran in which Channels are used as a group platform where members can receive content from.

A total of 12 administrators that were running pro Rohani and pro reformist Telegram Channels were arrested in March 2017 and their Channels which were to become election advertising platforms were deleted.

Most presidential candidates in Iran are running their advertisements on Telegram and Rohani’s campaign has suffered multiple blows as a result of these arrests.

Among those arrested one person, Heydar Valizadeh was released on bail on 17 April.

The Rohani administration challenges the arrests while the judiciary has gone as far as accusing members of the Rohani cabinet of involvement in the alleged charges brought against the detainees – which include charges of acting against Iran’s national security.

The spokesman for the judiciary hardline cleric Mohammad Hossein Mohseni Ejei told a press conference that the Minister of Intelligence is not in a position to comment on the arrest of the Telegram site organizers implying that the minister himself is under suspicion for certain charges in this regard.

Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei

The intelligence minister Mahmoud Alavi responded briefly saying he is certain no offences were committed by the Telegram administrators.

Mohseni Ejei said last week that the government has been opposed to the arrest since the beginning adding that the Minister of Intelligence is not the appropriate source to determine whether an individual has committed an offence or not. “In connection with a specific file there are certain issues facing the minister of intelligence which means he cannot be the one investigating and reporting on the matter.”

The president’s office commented on the top judiciary official’s statements saying he should refrain from attacking the ministry of intelligence and maintain the appearance of unity in the branches of government in the best interests of the Islamic Republic regime.

The Rohani government has spoken out against the arrest of the Telegram administrators for the past weeks but the judiciary insists that the arrests have been carried out according to the law.

Mohseni Ejei claimed: “The detainees are facing security charges as well as charges of offending public morality and publishing obscene content.”

Prosecutor General Mohammad Jafar Montazeri had stated earlier that the arrests arise from “actions against national security”. He confirmed that certain government officials and MPs have demanded their release.

Later a group of progressive MPs called on the Minister of Intelligence to report to parliament on the reasons for the arrest of these individuals.

With the approach of the presidential elections in Iran, reformists and supporters of the Rohani administration are finding it difficult to run their campaign and reach out to the public with hardliners presenting obstacles against them at every turn.

In the last elections, reportedly the Rohani campaign was highly successful in using social networking sites to rally their supporters to get out and vote and the conservative factions are wary of similar trends in social media in the lead up to the coming presidential elections.

Rouhani government criticizes IRGC arrests of journalists

Rouhani government criticizes IRGC arrests of journalistsAl-monitor - Members of President Hassan Rouhani's Cabinet have publicly criticized the recent arrests of Reformist journalists and online activists on the threshold of a presidential election.

Reformist Editor Arrested by Security Agents Amid Pre-Election Crackdown - Amid a widening crackdown on journalists and activists in Iran ahead of the country's May 2017 presidential election, security agents arrested Morad Saghafi, the reformist editor-in-chief of Goftegoo (Conversation) magazine, on March 15, 2017.

Editor of State-Funded News Agency Remains Detained Without Access to Due Process

tahere-riyahi-1 - Detained since December 2016, Tahereh Riahi, the social affairs editor of the state-funded Borna News Agency, remains isolated in Evin Prison in Tehran while being denied access to legal counsel.

Editor Detained by Iran’s Intelligence Ministry Pleads for Help From Evin Prison - Tahereh Riahi, the social affairs editor of the state-funded Borna News Agency, who has been detained by the Intelligence Ministry since late December 2016 without access to legal council, pleaded for help in her latest phone call to her family from Evin Prison, an informed source told the Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.

Editor Says He Was Wrongly Sentenced to Prison for Posting MP’s Sexist Comments Online

Editor - Hamed Ataee, a news editor from northwestern Iran who has been sentenced to four months in prison for posting a rumor online, says he was actually convicted for posting a video of a member of Parliament (MP) disparaging the presence of women in politics.

Iranian judiciary chief calls out Rouhani over press freedom

Iranian judiciary chief calls out Rouhani over press freedomAl-monitor - Judiciary chief Ayatollah Sadegh Larijani's latest remarks on freedom of the press in Iran featured on almost every front page in the country Nov. 8, and heated the debate that emerged with the opening of the Press Exhibition in Tehran on Nov. 4.

Changiz M. Varzi

"Some pressure us by asking, 'Why don't you shut down that newspaper?' while others ask, 'Why have you banned that newspaper?'" Larijani said Nov. 7. "All I can say [in response] to these pressures is that we [the judiciary] pursue our path only by following the constitution and Islamic law."

In response to President Hassan Rouhani's speech at the opening ceremony of the 22nd Press and News Agencies Exhibition on Nov. 4, Larijani accused him of harboring double standards on freedom of the press.

"On several occasions you complained about why we didn't have [a judicial] approach to this newspaper or that website," Larijani stated without directly naming Rouhani. "But when you speak among journalists, you hail freedom of the press." In this vein, Rouhani's comments on freedom of the press, according to Larijani, are tantamount to "defamation of the judiciary" and an "insult."

Since taking office in August 2013, Rouhani has openly criticized the shutting down of newspapers and the pressure that has been applied on the media. Speaking at the Press Exhibition on Nov. 4, he said, "How can journalists provide security to society if they are worried about their own security?" Rouhani also suggested that violations of the press law be investigated by professional journalists, and not in court. He added, "We should not break pens and shut mouths with flimsy excuses."

In another related comment Nov. 8, government spokesman Mohammad-Bagher Nobakht stressed that "the government believes in freedom of speech and freedom of criticism," which have been underlined in the Iranian Constitution. He added, "However, the government voices its objection to those who receive protection and act against the law, accuse [the administration] and revile it."

Meanwhile, Justice Minister Mostafa Pourmohammadi also entered the debate. Visiting the Press Exhibition on Nov. 8, he weighed into the discourse over the role and status of journalism in the country. "No one can say that we don't have freedom of speech in this country," Pourmohammadi said. "No news remains unpublished and there is no one with untold thoughts. But we need to put everything in order."

According to Pourmohammadi, the recent contradictory remarks on freedom of the press in Iran are a sign of freedom and will bear fruit "if everyone follows the law."

Amid the heated discussion over freedom of press in Iran, the semi-official Fars news agency has published a series of short interviews with right-wing politicians on the topic.

In a Nov. 8 interview with Fars, Ahmad Salek, the head of the parliamentary cultural commission, echoed the judiciary chief's remarks, saying, "On the one hand the government defends freedom of speech and freedom of the press, but on the other hand it accuses its critics of being illiterate and quasi-revolutionary."

Salek also suggested that politicians avoid fanning political polarization in the country, saying, "A private meeting is the place where the president should resolve these disagreements."

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