Urgent Action Appeal
His Excellency Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi-Shahrudi
Head of Judiciary
Ministry of Justice
Park-e Shahr,
Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran
C/o H.E. Ambassador to UK
Fax: 020 7589 4440

13 December 2000

Your Excellency,

We are writing on behalf of the World Association of Newspapers and the
World Editors Forum, which represent more than 17,000 publications in 93
countries, to express our serious concern at the suspension of the daily
Ahrar and the imposition of a punitive fine on its editor.

According to reports, on 9 December a local court ordered the three-month
suspension of Ahrar, a daily newspaper published in Tabriz, in the province
of East-Azerbaijan. The Tabriz court also imposed a fine of 55 million rials
(about US$31,400) on Mohammed-Hossein Kouzé-Gar, the newspaper's editor, for
"spreading false news". The action had been brought by military police in

We respectfully remind you that the suspension of Ahrar is a clear breach of
the right to freedom of expression, which is guaranteed by numerous
international conventions, including the International Covenant on Civil and
Political Rights, which Iran has ratified. The covenant states: "Everyone
shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include
freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds,
regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print."

Thirty other publications in Iran are reportedly suspended and a Tehran
court recently refused 132 publications authorisation to publish. At least
eight journalists are currently imprisoned in Iran and two journalists,
Hassan Youssefi Echkevari and Khalil Rostamkhani, are being prosecuted for
crimes which carry the death penalty.

We respectfully call on you to ensure that the suspension orders and fines
imposed on Mr Kouzé-Gar, Ahrar and other publications are lifted immediately
and that all journalists detained for the "crime" of free expression are
released. We urge you to do everything in your power to guarantee that your
country fully respects its international obligations to press freedom.

We look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.

Yours sincerely,

Roger Parkinson
World Association of Newspapers

Ruth de Aquino
World Editors Forum

cc:  Mr Kofi Annan, Secretary-General, United Nations
Mrs Mary Robinson, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
Mr Koichiro Matsuura, Director-General, UNESCO

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