Iran and Turkey maintain statuses as worst countries for journalists


In an annual census of imprisoned journalists conducted by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Iran and Turkey were listed amongst the countries with the most number of arrests. Other countries noted as the world’s worst for journalists included China, Burma, Vietnam, and Syria. Iran, however, accounted for more than 24 percent of the total number of journalists in prison bringing it to the top of the list of worst offenders. Among the earliest imprisonments in Iran are two prominent Kurdish political prisoners who have both been held since early 2007. Both Turkey and Iran have been known to target Kurdish activists or advocates of Kurdish rights with unfair punishment.

Various organizations often keep records of the number of journalists being arrested, in prison, or facing unfair trails for their work. For example, earlier this year, the International Press Institute published the findings from a report by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) that placed Iran, China, and Turkey at the top of the list of most journalists in prison. The report by OSCE found that Turkey topped the list with 70 journalists in jail, but that Iran and China also ranked among the worst for journalists behind Turkey.

Now, the CPJ is reporting that Iran is the worst offender. Regardless of which country tops the list, there is great concern among human rights activists worldwide about the ongoing trend in Turkey and Iran to jail individuals for their writings. CPJ reported that the number of journalists currently in prison makes 2011 the worst year since the mid-1990s. This is largely due to arrests across the Middle East and North Africa, and particularly, in countries like Turkey and Iran where such practices are all too common.

Iran arrested two Kurdish activists/writers in 2007 that remain behind bars despite some international protest. Adnan Hassanpour, the former editor of the outlawed Kurdish weekly newspaper – Aso, is currently serving a 15 year prison sentence because of his critical writings of the Iranian government. Mohammad Seddigh Kaboudvand, the former head of the Human Rights Organization of Kurdistan and managing editor of the weekly paper, Payam-e-Mardom, is currently serving an 11 year prison sentence. Despite Kaboudvand’s reported bad health and possible stroke in prison, Iranian authorities have denied him proper medical care. His current health status is unknown as his family has also been denied regular visits with Kaboudvand.