Published in “Der Spiegel” 36/2009, August 31, 2009
Mashallah Shamsol-Waesin, 51, Tehran’s chairman of the Association for Defence of the Freedom of the Press, on backlashes against journalists
SPIEGEL: How many Iranian journalists have been arrested since the controversial presidential election of June 12?
Shamsol-Waesin: We know of 38 arrests, most of them are young, dedicated people, however, also some very experienced journalists were among them. Eight journalists were released, the rest of them are most probably facing charges. These arrests are absolutely arbitrary. Most of the colleagues were detained from their homes, others in their editorial offices.
SPIEGEL: Do western media face any special risks?
Shamsol-Waesin: Not as long as the journalists are accredited by the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, Ershad. However, if journalists have been working for western media without permission, or the Iranian leadership wishes to utilize a case to gain political concessions from a western government, the situation gets more dangerous.
SPIEGEL: What kind of retributions are expected for the detainees?
Shamsol-Waesin: If they are charged with “propaganda against the Islamic Republic”, they face a maximum sentence of three years. The recent wave of arrests, however, is about “activities against national security”, for which they can be sentenced to up to ten years in jail.
SPIEGEL: The Revolutionary Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Wednesday of last week pointed out in a speech that he does not consider the “insurgents of the recent events” to be other countries’ stooges as long as the judiciary has not “proven” this.
Shamsol-Waesin: How to deal with critical journalists and opposition members is a mere political question. In the current situation, we are an easy prey. Our attorneys have no access to the files and are not permitted to attend the trials.