Shahabi freed for treatment, but Iran’s crackdown on media continues
As the update to my earlier story on jailed Iranian busworkers’ leader Reza Shahabi noted, he was let out of prison temporarily on 11 July for medical treatment. But don’t think this means the Iranian regime has had a fundamental change of heart. Despite its gradual rehabilitation in the eyes of western leaders, Iran’s government continues to crack down on media freedom and trade union rights.
Shahabi is out of prison for now and ended his hunger strike on 21 July. But he was transported to hospital in chains, and handcuffed to his bed. An Iranian official promised that he would be allowed to stay in hospital to recover from his 50-day hunger strike, have a much-needed operation, and undergo physiotherapy afterwards (including some rest and recuperation at home with his family.) But the campaign to have him released permanently, and his initial, unjust sentence overturned continues. You can still add your name to the 7770 other trade unionists around the world who have joined the International Transport Workers’ Federation call for his release.
And Reza, of course, is just one of the people the regime wants to silence. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) reports that there are now 27 journalists behind bars, more than in most dictatorships, in a massive attempt to restrict freedom of expression in Iran. What seems to be happening is that the Iranian government, now keen to come to an accommodation with western countries over nuclear power and the situation in Iran, doesn’t want any criticism that might undermine its reputation. IFJ President Jim Boumelha says:
“President Rohani promised reform and change when he came into power, but the reality for media in Iran has been very different. The country’s international relations have improved and negotiations are taking place over its nuclear program, but there has have been a brutal clampdown on free and independent media within its borders and an increase in the number of journalists imprisoned simply for doing their jobs and reporting the truth.”
Whether in jail because of breaches of freedom of association or freedom of expression, the brave Iranians and their trade unions – the Vahed Bus Company Workers’ Syndicate and the Association of Iranian Journalists – are standing up for truth and justice in Iran. And the number of free and independent unions is growing, as is their voice. The latest issue of Payam-e Sandica (‘Union Message’) lists a number of other unions associated with the publishers, the Union of Metalworkers and Mechanics of Iran (UMMI), such as building, workers, teachers and sugar workers.