By Souad Sbai
Iran, the case of Thomas Erdbrink breaks out. For four months, the Khomenist regime has prevented the New York Times correspondent based in Tehran from working and using social media. The last article and the last Twitter published by the Dutch journalist date back to February 10. The censorship may has not liked the thesis on the first 40 years of the Islamic Republic courageously explained by Erdbrink in his article where he certifies the failure to impose their ideological dictatorship on the Iranian people, that instead is composed of a secularized middle class and a new generation that continues to fight for rights, especially for women’s rights, despite the brutal repression against the opposition ordered by Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei.
There is no precise information on Erdbrink. The statement published by the New York Times on June 10 in which simply reports on the revocation of his press credentials does not throw light either. During these four months, the newspaper has preferred to spread a veil of silence on the matter, probably in order not to generate interferences that could further compromise the fate of the correspondent. However, the silence has contributed to fuel speculation about Erdbrink’s security conditions. What is certain is that even Erdbrink’s Iranian wife, Newsha Tavakolian, was banned from working as photographer for Magnum Photo Agency, explained the New York Times.
The war that the Khomeinist regime has declared on freedom of expression and freedom of the press is thus enriched with a new and disturbing chapter. The allegations made by Amnesty International and Reporters Without Borders describe a scenario characterized by arbitrary detention of journalists, arrested without being prosecute and tortured in the famous prisons of horrors (such as Evin in the capital) for insulting Khamenei or other members of the Islamic Republic, or for publishing information considered harmful to national security. The background? Totalitarian and police control over communications with WhatsApp becoming the number one enemy. But also Facebook, Twitter or YouTube are enemies subject to blockages or heavy restrictions.
Since 1979, according to the data provided by Reporters Without Borders, 860 journalists have been imprisoned and among them there are many prisoners sentenced to death.
The case of Erdbrink recalls the case of Iranian-American reporter Jason Rezaian, Erdbrink’s successor as Washington Post correspondent in Tehran, arrested on espionage charges and imprisoned for 544 days. Sentenced in 2015 in a closed trial, Rezaian was released in 2016 as part of an exchange that saw the release three other American citizens of Iranian origin and the return to the Islamic Republic of seven of its affiliates detained in the United States. The exchange took place when the agreement on the nuclear program was signed and Obama paid the Khomeinist regime 400 million dollars in cash.
In the statements made on, the New York Times recalled Rezaian’s release, that took place at the time of the democratic administration, suggesting the existence of a cause-effect link between Trump’s hard line position against Tehran and the affair of which Erdbring is the victim. Kidnappings and arbitrary detentions as a tool of political blackmail and to obtain generous rescues have been a practice carried out by the Khomeinist regime since its origin. We will see if and how Trump manages to untangle this tangle.