“We Are Summoned and Threatened Every Day”

Fereshteh Ghazi, an Iranian journalist and human rights activist, reports on the threats and challenges Iranian journalists face on a daily basis:

While a large number of prominent Iranian journalists have been arrested since the June 12 presidential election, other journalists and independent newspapers are under heavy pressure as well and are constantly summoned by various security and military agencies.  In interview with Rooz, several of these journalists described the increasing pressures facing them that are unprecedented in the history of Iranian journalism.

Shamsolvaezeen, Forbidden from Interviews

Journalist and chief editor of several Iranian newspapers that remain banned, Mashallah Shamsolvaezeen was summoned to the Ministry of Intelligence last week.  There, he was told that he does not have the right to speak with any media.  He confirmed his summons and complained to Rooz, “No legal basis or reason exists for my interview ban.”

He explained that he was asked to play his role in defusing the crisis by not granting interviews and disseminating information.

“So I will not grant interviews based on the commitment that was extracted from me, but the country’s situation will not be calmed with this or that person’s silence.  On the contrary, with the silence of journalists and intellectuals, the road will be paved for military officers, or someone else to write letters to the hidden Imam, and for others to attack people with tear gas,” he said.

Threatened by Revolutionary Guards and Security Police

The ban on granting interviews is not the only problem facing Iranian journalists, whose only job is to disseminate information.  Following the election coup, most journalists have been summoned by the various security and military organs, including the Ministry of Intelligence, Tehran Prosecutor’s Office, and the newly-formed Security Police and threatened not to cross the red lines and to operate within the regime’s permitted framework.  Journalists who have been summoned to the Security Police say that they were put under heavy pressure to write articles and reports in support of the coup government and against the opposition.  One journalist told Rooz, “Journalists are put under pressure to connect popular gatherings to foreigners, criticize Mir-Hossein Mousavi, seyyed Mohammad Khatami and Mehdi Karoubi and to frame their statements and positions to be in line with agitators.”

Meanwhile, journalists who have been freed are also subjected to regular summons issued by the Security Police, interrogated and threatened not to release information about their time in detention.  They are also told that they are under heavy surveillance.  Despite these problems, Iranian journalists have so far refrained from supporting the coup government and writing reports and articles against reformist figures and popular gatherings.

Multi-Layered Threats

Badrosadat Mofidi, head of the Association of Iranian Journalists, is among the group of journalists who was summoned to the Ministry of Intelligence last week.  Mrs. Mofidi was treated violently and in a repulsive manner.  She told Rooz about her encounter and repeated threats against journalists, “Journalists who are summoned and threatened are not willing to speak about their experiences because they are under heavy pressure against this.  In cases where they speak with the Association of Iranian Journalists, they insist for their case not be publicized due to fear.”

Mofidi refers to unemployment as another major problem gripping the society of Iranian journalists, noting, “Journalists who work with more-or-less independent publications are constantly under pressure, summoned or interrogated.”

The head of the Association of Iranian Journalists describes the presence of officers from the Prosecutor’s Office as well as the Ministry of Culture at press rooms prior to the publication of newspapers for censorship purposes, adding, “We have seen all kinds of restrictions over the years, but this is a new kind.”

Principalist Journalists Also Under Pressure

Reza Moeini, head of the Reporters Without Borders’ Iran Bureau also spoke to Rooz about the repeated summoning of Iranian journalists: “Those who have not been arrested, as well as those who are released on bail, are constantly summoned, and the possibility of arrest is always hanging over their heads like a sword.”

Noting that Principalist journalists (journalists who belong to the conservative camp) also are under pressure, Moeini says, “The resignation and dismissal of a large number of journalists from media outlets close to the administration points to the extent of the pressure exerted on journalists.  They are also under pressure and cannot work freely.”

Commenting on the detention of a large number of journalists, Moeini says, “We know of many cases but we also don’t know about many other cases.  We are certain that the number of detainees is far higher than the number on our list.”

He adds, “What has taken place since June 12, whether considering the arrests or the extent of control and pressure on journalists, is unprecedented.”

Posted By Sanaz Tofighrad

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7,350 signatures

Tell Google: Stop playing Persian Gulf name games!

May 14, 2012
Larry Page
Chief Executive Officer
Google Inc.
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
Mountain View, California 94043

Dear Mr. Page:

It has come to our attention that Google has begun omitting the title of the Persian Gulf from its Google Maps application. This is a disconcerting development given the undisputed historic and geographic precedent of the name Persian Gulf, and the more recent history of opening up the name to political, ethnic, and territorial disputes. However unintentionally, in adopting this practice, Google is participating in a dangerous effort to foment tensions and ethnic divisions in the Middle East by politicizing the region’s geographic nomenclature. Members of the Iranian-American community are overwhelmingly opposed to such efforts, particularly at a time when regional tensions already have been pushed to the brink and threaten to spill over into conflict. As the largest grassroots organization in the Iranian-American community, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) calls on Google to not allow its products to become propaganda tools and to immediately reinstate the historically accurate, apolitical title of “Persian Gulf” in all of its informational products, including Google Maps.

Historically, the name “Persian Gulf” is undisputed. The Greek geographer and astronomer Ptolemy referencing in his writings the “Aquarius Persico.” The Romans referred to the "Mare Persicum." The Arabs historically call the body of water, "Bahr al-Farsia." The legal precedent of this nomenclature is also indisputable, with both the United Nations and the United States Board of Geographic Names confirming the sole legitimacy of the term “Persian Gulf.” Agreement on this matter has also been codified by the signatures of all six bordering Arab countries on United Nations directives declaring this body of water to be the Persian Gulf.

But in the past century, and particularly at times of escalating tensions, there have been efforts to exploit the name of the Persian Gulf as a political tool to foment ethnic division. From colonial interests to Arab interests to Iranian interests, the opening of debate regarding the name of the Persian Gulf has been a recent phenomenon that has been exploited for political gain by all sides. Google should not enable these politicized efforts.

In the 1930s, British adviser to Bahrain Sir Charles Belgrave proposed to rename the Persian Gulf, “Arabian Gulf,” a proposal that was rejected by the British Colonial and Foreign offices. Two decades later, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company resurrected the term during its dispute with Mohammad Mossadegh, the Iranian Prime Minister whose battle with British oil interests would end in a U.S.-sponsored coup d'état that continues to haunt U.S.-Iran relations. In the 1960s, the title “Arabian Gulf” became central to propaganda efforts during the Pan-Arabism era aimed at exploiting ethnic divisions in the region to unite Arabs against non-Arabs, namely Iranians and Israelis. The term was later employed by Saddam Hussein to justify his aims at territorial expansion. Osama Bin Laden even adopted the phrase in an attempt to rally Arab populations by emphasizing ethnic rivalries in the Middle East.

We have serious concerns that Google is now playing into these efforts of geographic politicization. Unfortunately, this is not the first time Google has stirred controversy on this topic. In 2008, Google Earth began including the term “Arabian Gulf” in addition to Persian Gulf as the name for the body of water. NIAC and others called on you then to stop using this ethnically divisive propaganda term, but to no avail. Instead of following the example of organizations like the National Geographic Society, which in 2004 used term “Arabian Gulf” in its maps but recognized the error and corrected it, Google has apparently decided to allow its informational products to become politicized.

Google should rectify this situation and immediately include the proper name for the Persian Gulf in Google Maps and all of its informational products. The exclusion of the title of the Persian Gulf diminishes your applications as informational tools, and raises questions about the integrity and accuracy of information provided by Google.

We strongly urge you to stay true to Google’s mission – “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” – without distorting or politicizing that information. We look forward to an explanation from you regarding the recent removal of the Persian Gulf name from Google Maps and call on you to immediately correct this mistake.



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