Detained journalists colluded with West: Iran
TEHRAN / BRUSSELSMore than a dozen arrested Iranian journalists have been caught cooperating with a “Western-linked network” ahead of a presidential election in June, the Intelligence Ministry said Jan. 30.
Reports emerged this week that 14 journalists close to the marginalized reformists have been detained for alleged links to foreign Persian media, sparking an international outcry.
The Intelligence Ministry said in a statement carried by media on that more arrests could follow.
The journalists belonged to “one of the biggest media networks” linked to the West, the statement said, adding that the charges against them are “completely solid and documented.”
Their network, it said, was established by the BBC and operates “in cooperation with several Western governments.” The ministry said their goal was to “exploit what they learned during the sedition period” after the 2009 presidential election, which Iran accuses the West and Western media, including the BBC, of inciting.
The Intelligence Ministry said the journalists had been under surveillance for months, and were found using “unique tools and methods to transmit news and receive directions” from abroad.
It is possible more journalists will be “arrested or summoned in the coming days as investigations continue, or that some detainees are released, since they were probably unaware of links to abroad,” the statement added.
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International criticized the arrests, urging Iran to free the journalists.
European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton also called on Iran to explain a wave of arrests of journalists and raids on newspaper offices.
A statement issued by Ashton’s office also said she was concerned by reports that Iran-based family members of BBC-Farsi journalists based in London have been harassed and that defamatory material about these journalists is circulating in Iran.
Referring to the arrests, raids and reported harassment, it said that “such actions would constitute acts of politically motivated intimidation, particularly worrying in light of the approaching Presidential elections in Iran.
“The right to freedom of expression, including the right of any individual to seek, receive and share information, is an internationally enshrined fundamental human right, which Iran itself has freely signed up to respect and protect,” it added.