Reporters Without Borders supports women journalists and bloggers fighting for women’s rights

Friday 7 March 2008

International women’s day

Reporters Without Borders supports women journalists and bloggers fighting for women’s rights

Reporters Without Borders today urged support for women journalists, activists, bloggers and Internet users speaking out for their rights in the face of "increasing repression" by governments and threats from religious groups.

"The imprisonment, torture, prosecution and death threats against them must be exposed," the worldwide press freedom organisation said. "It is unacceptable that today, in 2008, people can still be jailed or threatened with death for raising this rights issue."

Many women are now fighting for freedom of expression in Iran by using the Internet to dodge censorship. The government has arrested more than 40 of them over the past year, including 32 journalists and bloggers, for demonstrating in Teheran for their rights and then continuing their campaign online as cyber-feminists in blogs and news websites. Some spent a few weeks in prison and all are currently free but still facing charges. The intelligence and security ministry called cyber-feminists "subversives in the pay of foreigners" in April last year.

The Iranian feminist monthly Zanan was suspended on 28 January this year for supposedly "damaging the minds" of its readers and more than 30 of its staff lost their jobs. Parvin Ardalan, editor of the website Wechange, which defends women’s rights in Iran, was arrested on 3 March as she was boarding a flight for Stockholm to receive the 2007 Olof Palme human rights prize. Her passport was confiscated on the orders of the Teheran chief prosecutor. She was also arrested in June 2006 after organising a peaceful protest to demand abolition of discriminatory laws against women in Iran.

In Afghanistan, a man, Sayed Perwiz Kambakhsh, has been condemned to death for defending women’s rights. He was arrested on 27 October last year in the north of the country and accused of "blasphemy" and "insulting Islam." After persistent pressure from the national Council of Mullahs and local authorities, he was sentenced to death on 22 January this year after a secret trial with no lawyer present to defend him. The 23-year-old journalism student at Balkh University is a reporter for the paper Jahan-e-Naw ("New World") and had downloaded an article from an Iranian website that cited extracts from the Koran about women. He did not write the article.

The most conservative Afghans think too many women appear on local TV and are pushing for a law to force them to wear religious garb. Men claiming to be Talibans made death threats against three women journalists in Mazar-e-Charif in February 2008, warning that if they continued to appear on TV members of their families would be kidnapped. The women were unable to get protection from the police, who have still not arrested anyone for the murder last June of Zakia Zaki, owner of Radio Peace, which exposed abuses against women.

Bangladeshi writer and feminist Taslima Nasreen has been living under police guard in India since last November after deaths threats for denouncing violations of women’s rights committed in the name of Islam. French President Nicolas Sarkozy wanted to present her with the Simone de Beauvoir feminist award when he visited India this January but did not so to avoid trouble for officials under pressure from powerful Muslim groups.

Egyptian writer Nawal Saadawi, founder of the Arab Women’s Solidarity Association, has also been threatened and hounded by the law and fled her country to take refuge in Europe.

Argentine journalist Claudia Acuña, founder of an online news agency, La Vaca, and a related monthly, MU, was targeted by police checking the ID of everyone visiting her house last July after she wrote a book claiming official involvement in prostitution in Buenos Aires.


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