Iranian officials have canceled today the residence of the correspondent of El País in Tehran, Angeles Espinosa, who has been given two weeks to leave the Islamic Republic. The move is further evidence of the nervousness of the regime against any criticism. Espinosa, who was credited to work in Iran for five years, was arrested in Qom last July when he went to interview Ahmad Montazeri, the son of the dissident Grand Ayatollah Montazeri, who died last year, and since then authorities had withdrawn the journalist card.
“Journalists have no freedom to travel outside Tehran. We must apply for permission and I never would have obtained for that interview,” admits Espinosa. However, after a severe reprimand those responsible for the Office of Foreign Press gave it that recover your card when she return from vacation.
Back in Teheran the journalist tried to regain her accreditation, but instead, she was deprived of her passport for three weeks. All foreigners residing in Iran need an exit visa to leave the country and Espinosa was unable to be stamped with the seal, which kept it in a troubling limbo. Until yesterday, when they finally surrendered her passport with the residence permit canceled and an order to leave Iran before Oct. 24th.
“Nobody has given me any explanation. Since returning from my vacation, the General Director for Foreign Press has refused to see me and the new head of the office made me understand that he could not help me, that the orders came from the other side” Espinosa said. “Through others, I have been informed that the interview with Montazeri, in which he criticized the Supreme Leader, has been the drop that overflowed the glass, but they were already very upset with my work since the last elections and El País campaign in defense of Sakineh Ashtiani.
The sentence by stoning imposed on that woman has mobilized the international community. Iran, one of the few countries that still maintains the stoning in its criminal code, has tried unsuccessfully to neutralize this new blow to its already tarnished image.
“The level of tolerance of criticism has been greatly reduced since the arrival to the presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad,” said Espinosa. Last year, following protests that the Iranians were his controversial re-election, Iran also expelled the BBC correspondent and urged the departure of the envoys who had come to cover the elections. Since then the Govt has given visas sparingly and censorship has grown exponentially internal.
There are no reformist newspapers in the streets and at least fifty Iranian journalists in prison, which according to Reporters Without Borders makes Iran the biggest prison for reporters. Although initially many independent journalists took refuge in the blogs, the regime has also increased control of the internet and imprisoned numerous bloggers. A few days ago, Hossein Derakhshan, known as the father of blogging, was sentenced to 19 years and six months in jail. Another well-known blogger, Hengame Shahidi, has been denied necessary medical care in prison.