Heart attack prompts call for release of international journalist of the year - Press Gazette

Heart attack prompts call for release of international journalist of the year

British Press Awards international journalist of the year Emadeddin Baghi has suffered a heart attack in prison leading press freedom campaigners to call for his immediate release.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) today urged the Iranian authorities to release Baghi from Tehran’s Evin prison. He returned there on 15 April following a temporary release for health reasons.

In a statement it said: ‘We urge the Iranian authorities to act now to avoid putting the journalist’s life at risk. He is suffering because of his prison conditions and we will hold them responsible if anything happens to him.”

Baghi, 45, was hospitalised in Tehran after suffering a heart attack on 7 May. He was returned to Evin jail the same evening.

Earlier in the day, he had been brought before capital’s revolutionary court in connection with a 2005 case against him after he used the media to criticise the behaviour of the prison authorities.

According to RSF, on his return to Evin jail, the journalist found that his books, articles and papers had been seized in his absence.

His wife, Fatemeh Kamali Ahmad Sarahi, told Reporters Without Borders that she was very worried about his health. ‘His doctors have told me that these recurrent illnesses should be taken very seriously,’she said.

Baghi was unable to attend the British Press Awards last month, but said in a statement: ‘The print media has, for me, consistently and continuously been a platform for raising awareness, moral standards, for spreading awareness of scientific developments in the world, and promoting the notion of separation of powers, pushing ahead our understanding.

‘But in our land, Iran, which has been striving for 150 years to obtain freedom and democracy, we have seen, in the past 10 years, the banning of some 150 newspapers, among them one of mine. Yet none of them had any hostility with the Islamic Republic. They were merely independent of mind and sought reform.”

Baghi has written more than 20 books, a number of which are currently banned by the Iranian regime. In 2003 he founded the Society for Defending Prisoners’ Rights. He also founded the Society of Right to Life Guardians in 2005, which campaigns to abolish the death sentence and capital punishment.

He founded Jomhooriyat newspaper in 2004, taking the radical step of including dedicated pages to human rights, trade unions and civil institutions coverage. The judiciary, who have called for Baghi’s dismissal, subsequently banned the newspaper.

He is currently serving a year’s prison sentence on charges of ‘acting against national security”. He has also had his passport confiscated and suspended prison sentences have been passed against his wife and daughter.