One Journalist Held Incommunicado, a Second Stabbed
Reporters Without Borders condemns the arrest of Bahman Totonchi, a former contributor to the weekly Karfto, on 18 November in Sanandaj, the capital of the northwestern province of Kurdistan. The organisation has also learned that a journalist was stabbed and seriously wounded in a neighbouring province after writing about gas shortages in the region.
“Totonchi’s arrest brings the number of Kurdish journalists currently detained in Iran to five,” Reporters Without Borders said. “This can only be described as persecution as they all used to work for independent media that were already closed by the authorities in charge of supervising the media. We call for Totonchi’s release especially as, more than a week after his arrest, no charges have been brought against him.”
The press freedom organisation added: “Meanwhile, the physical attack on a journalist who was covering sensitive social issues serves as a danger alert to the entire media just a few months before the start of the presidential election campaign.”
Totonchi was arrested at his Sanandaj home by intelligence agents who carried out a search and left with personal files and his satellite dish. It is not known where he is now being held. Reporters Without Borders has been told that the security forces had been harassing him ever since his newspaper was closed on 29 December 2007 on the orders of the Commission for the Authorisation and Surveillance of the Press, an offshoot of the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance.
Mohammad Khaleghi, a journalist based in Takab (in the northwestern province of West Azerbaijan) who writes for the ASR Iran news website, was seriously injured when he was attacked on 24 November by two men on a motorcycle who were armed with a knife and a box cutter.
A few days before the attack, he had covered protests by Takab residents about gas distribution problems and had questioned the government’s handling of the issue, prompting Takab’s governor to demand his dismissal and accuse him of being “morally incompetent.”
The Iranian government is one of the region’s worst press freedom violators. The print media, news websites and the broadcast media are all controlled by the Ministry of Culture and Islamic guidance and the intelligence services.