Restrictions on the way media organizations can report; repeated banning of newspapers and other publications; existence of redlines which should not be crossed and are imposed by 12 different judicial and intelligence agencies t are the factors which rule media scene in Iran. The suffocated environment, bans and constant monitoring have not only slowed down the progress of media organization and journalism in Iran, but have forced many journalists and reporters to do their job in an inferno, or simply disappear like the waning moon. Journalists who cover areas other than political affairs rarely become known media figures. Saaed Laylaz is a rare example of a journalist who covered an area other than political affairs but became famous for his coverage of economical affairs throughout years. He is currently facing a 9 year prison term.
Nevertheless, among cultural circles and the publishing industry, Masoud Lavasani is a familiar name. Book publishers remember him from his vigorous reports and interviews before and during the 2007 Tehran book fair, when he challenged the fair management over its policies and stubbornness to choose Mossalla as the fair venue. When he was denied entry to the fair as a result of his reporting, he did not hesitate to leap over the fences at night and take pictures of clogged pipes and damaged books for the Mehr News agency. The pictures clearly proved that Tehran’s Mossalla was not the proper venue for the fair. Finally,because of his book fair coverage, as well as his other reports, he was fired from the Mehr News, where he worked.
Masoud Lavasani was arrested and taken to Evin on September 26th, 2009. During his detention in solitary he endured harsh psychological torture and pressure. He became weak and sick inside the bitter cold and filthy cell. These days he is being held in the basement of ward 350 of Evin Prison, where prisoners are watched day and night with closed-captioned cameras, constantly mistreated and taken to the prison yard every morning at 7am to do their mandatory exercises in cold temperatures.
In his bio, Lavasani calls himself a journalist, publishing expert and cultural affairs analyst with 10 years of work experience for different newspapers and media organizations. He started his work as a journalist in 1998 by writing short stories for the Jam-e-Jam newspaper. For 3 years he was the cultural affairs editor for Sobhe-Sadegh weekly and wrote political analysis for Kayhan daily. He also was a movie critic for Soroosh weekly.
In 2004 he started working for the Mehr News Agency, where he stayed for the next 4 years. After his dismissal from Mehr, he became a contributing editor for Etemad, Etemad-Meli, Shargh, Kargozaran and Tehran Emrooz. He also was the cultural affairs editor for Aftab Yazd Daily for a period.
In the spiral of post-election events, journalists were targeted more than ever. Many were arrested, and so was Masoud, who ended up in Evin prison. Sadly, in the absence of support from human rights organizations as well as other journalists and colleagues, his treatment in prison became very harsh.
Last Monday, judge Pir-Abassi of the 26th branch of the Revolutionary Court handed down an 8 year prison sentence to Masoud. His charges included conspiracy and acting against national security, insulting the Supreme Leader, disseminating lies through his weblog and emails and so on and so forth. Currently his weblog, the box of ants’ memoirs, has been deleted by the interrogators and is not accessible.
Up until last Monday, Masoud was allowed 2 prison visits per month, but the court’s ruling changed this arrangement. The judge ruled that, from now on, Masoud will only be allowed 1 visit every 6 weeks and will not be allowed to see his 2 year old son during his prison term. During the course of the investigations, the judge and the magistrate had refused all along to release Masoud on bail, and even now, after the initial court’s ruling, continue to do so. After the sentencing, he was told unequivocally by the judge that he will be serving his full term and that the judge will make sure that he won’t be released before the end of his term.
And now Masoud cannot hold his son the way he used to. The weblog he had created for his son Matin will not be updated anymore, in the absence of Matin’s father. Masoud’s last post on the weblog was: “the sweetest part of fatherhood is the moment your child calls you ‘dad’. That is when the real experience of fatherhood starts.” Masoud’s son had just started to talk at that time.
This is the most heartbreaking part of Masoud’s sad story; with his ruling, the judge denies him the experience and joy of fatherhood. The judicial and intelligence institutions have gone beyond the violation of the rights of the person, targeting families, who now have to suffer along with their imprisoned loved ones. So, you who are the judge representing justice, what did the 2 year old Matin do that you denied him the right to call his father ‘dad’? Did he have ties to foreigners or did he insult authorities?