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Journalist Trapped in Iran Says She Feels Like “Prisoner in a Larger Prison”

(Prague, Czech Republic–June 6, 2007) Radio Farda correspondent Parnaz Azima, who has been prevented by authorities from leaving Iran since January 25, described her status to RFE/RL “as a prisoner who is in a larger prison and the length of the prison term has not been determined. [The prisoner] is expecting an answer any minute that he will remain in jail or be released.” Azima said she remains optimistic that authorities will return her passport to her.

Azima told RFE/RL she is “grateful” for the relative freedom she has in Iran when compared to jailed Iranian American scholars Haleh Esfandiari, Kian Tajbakhsh and Ali Shakeri, but added, “Everybody knows that it is very likely that my phone is being tapped, my calls are being monitored.”

Asked for her reaction to the charges raised against her of spreading propaganda against the state by working for Radio Farda, Azima responded, “Officials from Iran’s Islamic republic, who always say that [Iran] is one of the best democracies in the world, should not have any fear for telling the truth. If they really care about people’s thoughts and opinions, they should consider people’s ideas and value them in order to improve the Islamic republic. The other issue is that journalism is a profession that doesn’t take sides and is impartial; a journalist should say everything objectively therefore I think — as Mohammad Hossein Aghasi [Azima’s lawyer] has said — these charges are baseless.”

Azima, a citizen of both the U.S. and Iran, had her Iranian passport confiscated on arrival in Tehran to visit her ailing mother. The judge in her case decided she would not be jailed, Azima said, in lieu of a “very heavy and unprecedented bail of about 500 million tooman (approximately US$550,000).” Azima told RFE/RL she is waiting for the Iranian Intelligence Ministry to complete its investigation and for a decision by the Iranian Judiciary on next steps: “I’m waiting and I’ve been in this state for five months now,” she said.

The full text of RFE/RL’s interview with Radio Farda correspondent Parnaz Azima may be read on the RFE/RL website. To learn more about the Azima case, visit the “Soft Hostages in Iran” page on RFE/RL’s website.

Azima is a broadcaster with Radio Farda, the joint RFE/RL-Voice of America 24-hour, seven-day-a-week Persian-language broadcast service to Iran. She joined RFE/RL in 1998 and is based at RFE/RL’s broadcast headquarters in Prague, Czech Republic.