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Dine Condemns Iranian Press Freedom Violations

(Prague, Czech Republic–June 19, 2003) RFE/RL President Thomas A. Dine condemned today the arrest and mistreatment of journalists trying to cover the current student demonstrations in Iran, including a correspondent for the U.S. Government-funded Radio Farda.

“I am outraged by these brutal attempts to keep professional journalists, including one of our own, from doing their jobs of providing news and information to the Iranian public,” Dine said. “Especially troublesome to me is the way in which club-wielding vigilantes are allowed if not encouraged by Iran’s rulers to harass, harm, and detain their fellow citizens on the street, simply for expressing an opinion — or for trying to report on the vigilantism.”

Among the journalists who have been detained over the past week is Ensafali Hedayat, who contributes reports to Radio Farda and also works for “Salam.” Reporters Sans Frontiers, a Paris-based watchdog group, says six journalists have been arrested since June 14. Besides Hedayat, they are Mohsen Sazgara of “Jameh” and the website, Amin Bozorgian of “Golestan-e-Iran,” Taghi Ramani of the weekly “Omid-e-Zangan,” and Reza Alijani and Hoda Saber of the monthly “Iran-e-Farda.”

Hedayat was seized by vigilantes on June 16, while covering a demonstration at the University of Tabriz, in northern Iran. According to eyewitnesses, he was beaten and transported to a temporary Security Forces office in from of the University, from where he was transferred to the main prison in Tabriz. Hedayat’s family reports that they saw him at the prison yesterday, June 18, with a blue face and wearing bloody clothing. Hedayat, who suffers from kidney ailments, was later moved to a hospital after his health deteriorated further. Hedayat’s wife and four children have no further news from their husband and father, who wrote for the banned newspaper “Salam” and for local newspapers in Tabriz.

Sazgara, who has been on a hunger strike since his arrest, and Bozorgian were detained on June 15. Ramani, Alijani and Saber were detained one day earlier, on June 14. All were seized at a time when Iran is being convulsed by a nationwide wave of student protests against Iran’s ruling clerics.

Radio Farda, the very popular youth-oriented radio service to Iran supervised by the Broadcasting Board of Governors, is a collaboration of RFE/RL and Voice of America’s Persian Service.To hear archived audio for this and other RFE/RL briefings and events, please visit our website at