Iran: Six-month prison sentences for four cyber-feminists

4/09/2008
Four women who published information on the internet have been given prison sentences.
Reporters without Borders

Reporters Without Borders is outraged by the six-month prison sentences which a Tehran court has passed on four cyber-feminists – Parvin Ardalan, Jelveh Javaheri, Maryam Hosseinkhah and Nahid Keshavarz – on charges of “publishing information against the government” under article 500 of the Islamic criminal code.

The four, who are still free pending the outcome of their appeals, were prosecuted for writing articles for two online newspapers that defend women’s rights in Iran – Zanestan (Women’s City) and Tagir Bary Barbary (Change for Equality).

“These four journalists post their articles online because their magazines have been censored,” Reporters Without Borders said. “They are the victims of persecution by the authorities, who repeatedly summon to them to court for interrogation about their activities. They are the victims of discriminatory measures. We call on the government to drop these proceedings against them.”

Under article 500 of the Islamic Republic’s criminal code, “anyone who undertakes any form of propaganda against the state will be sentenced to between three months and one year in prison.” Nobel peace prize winning lawyer Shirin Ebadi, who is acting for the cyber-feminists, says they plan to appeal.

She told Reporters Without Borders: “These four journalists have been convicted just for writing articles and criticising laws that are unfair to Iranian women (…) I am worried because I see the situation getting worse. If parliament ratifies the new law increasing sentences for crimes against society’s moral security, bloggers could get prison sentences.”

Ardalan, who edits the Tagir Bary Barbary website, has already been convicted three times on similar charges, and has a one-year prison sentence and suspended sentences of five and a half years in prison hanging over her.

Javaheri, 30, writes for Tagir Bary Barbary. She was already arrested with Keshavarz on 14 February for “attacking state security.” She was previously held from 1 December to 3 January in Evin prison (in north Tehran) with Hosseinkhah on charges of disturbing public opinion, publishing false information and publicity against the Islamic Republic for writing articles demanding recognition of women’s constitutional rights.

Keshavarz, who writes for both Tagir Bary Barbary and Zanestan, was already arrested twice and interrogated by intelligence officers for participating in two street demonstrations in defence of women’s rights. She spent 12 days in prison in April 2007. She currently has three complaints pending against her.

Hosseinkhah, 32, also writes for both websites. She was held in Evin prison from 18 November to 3 January with Javaheri. She currently has two cases pending against her.

Meanwhile, Jila Bani Yaghoub, a journalist who writes for the Sarmayeh daily newspaper and the Canon Zeman Irani website (www.irwomen.com), was summoned by a Tehran revolutionary court on 2 September without any charge being specified. She was arrested with eight other journalists on 12 June while covering the third anniversary of the biggest-ever feminist protest in the capital – on 12 June 2005. They were released the next morning.

Iran was ranked 166th out of 169 countries in the latest Reporters Without Borders world press freedom index.

wluml.org

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