London, Asharq Al-Awsat—Iranian journalists have written an open letter to president-elect Hassan Rouhani asking him to safeguard the legal rights enshrined in the Iranian constitution, according to a report on the pro-reform website JARAS yesterday.
The letter referred to specific articles of the constitution, particularly those recognizing freedom of expression and freedom of assembly for all Iranian citizens.
The open letter was reported to have been signed by 135 Iranian journalists. The letter also called on Rouhani to end the persecution and imprisonment of Iranian journalists. The signatories urged Rouhani to ensure that the articles of the Iranian constitution are implemented on the ground, bringing an end to the “security restrictions placed on Iranian journalists resulting in unjustified detentions, intimidation and forced exile.”
The letter also called on Rouhani to ensure that the Iranian Association of Journalists is re-opened. The association was closed four years ago and all attempts to re-open it have been blocked by the judiciary and government.
“The Association of Iranian Journalists is the only professional institution to protect and safeguard the legal and professional rights of Iranian journalists,” the open letter emphasized.
It is understood that over the last few years, not only journalists, but also their families, have been subject to various surveillance and intimidation attempts. The families of Iranian journalists working for the BBC’s Persian service have complained of mistreatment and harassment at the hands of Iranian authorities.
Many Iranian local journalists have been subject to arrest and prosecution on the basis of being in contact with foreign news agencies or journalists.
“According to Article 37 of the Iranian constitution, one is innocent until proven guilty following due process in a valid court,” the writers of the letter reminded the president-elect.
Improving the working conditions of journalists in Iran was one of Rouhani’s pre-election promises.
Over the last month, a number of journalists have been released from jail or granted bail.
Jila Bani Yaqub, a journalist and women’s rights campaigner, was released from prison on Wednesday, while well-known Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotudeh was granted compassionate leave to spend time with her family.
According to Baztab website, a number of political prisoners who were being held in Division 350 of Evin Prison have been granted compassionate leave, while those already on leave have had this extended by the authorities.