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Witness Statement: Arash Sigarchi

5. Towards the end of March 2002, I started blogging. Blogging has a particular definition; it is like the journal you keep when you are a teenager. When I was young I had a journal like this and I knew how to write. Everyday in my blog I would write my daily memoir if it was important.

6. On the November 29, 2002, a series of telephone poles were installed in Rasht. In appearance they were cell phone towers, but in reality they served to interrupt the reception of satellites, so people couldn’t watch satellite TV. One of those poles was placed in front of a girls’ school, which could affect the fertility of the girls. I did some research on this issue and prepared a controversial report that was to be published by our newspaper. The night before distribution, the general manager removed the story and said if it was published we would be shut down. I retorted that reporting on the news was a worthwhile cause to be shut down for. When I couldn’t run the report, I put the article on my weblog that evening to spite the general manager of the newspaper. Immediately, other news agencies picked up the report. Other cities began to realize the same thing was being done in their area, and understood what the real situation was. From that point on, whenever my general manager disagreed with me, I resisted fighting him on it – I would just put the article on my blog.

7. In 2004, during the same time that tensions were high at the in country, the student movement was galvanizing and their activities were increasing. Rasht is a city where student and political movements always start, and an important gathering took place there. So I began to cover the student movement. When this happened I reported the news pertaining to the student movement constantly. News agencies, such as RadioFarda, Radio Français and BBC news contacted me saying that they wanted me to give testimony of the situation as a journalist. Due to my duty as a journalist, I did exactly that. I remember at the time, NI-TV reported that in Rasht 10,000 people were demonstrating. As a witness to the event I clarified that there were only 2,000 people there, 500 of which were intelligence agents and law enforcement officers. What I mean to say is that, as a journalist, my reports were accurate and realistic.

8. But the Ministry of Intelligence didn’t understand this. They called and informed me that I was not permitted to give interviews. I responded that since there were no laws banning me from giving interviews, I would continue to do so. Two weeks later, I received a communiqué from the National Security Council which had previously been sent to newspapers in Tehran stating that I was not permitted to give interviews. The Intelligence officers only showed me the communiqué which was a letter that had the words “Confidential/Secret” on the top of the page. In the communiqué it was emphasized that all of the country’s officials, including representatives, commanders, regional officers, chief directors and their subordinates were banned from giving interviews to “hostile” media outlets, such as Radio Israel, Radio Freedom, RFE/RL, Radio America, Radio Français, Radio Germany, etc. Of course, this circular had other provisions. Although the circular said nothing about newspaper journalists, my interrogator said that I was subject to its content. The interrogator further added, “The regime trusts you and has kept you as a journalist. If you were not trusted, you would have been eliminated [as a journalist].”

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Cyber Journalism, Secret Prisons, Imprisonment, Torture, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment, Punishment, Travel Restrictions