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New On-Line Publication Aims To Bolster Freedom in Iran

(Washington, D.C.--November 14, 2006) A new on-line journal developed by Freedom House is designed to serve as tool to amplify the voices of reformers in Iran, according to its manager. Mariam Memarsadeghi, Senior Program Manager for the Middle East & North Africa at Freedom House told a recent RFE/RL audience that "Gozaar", the new Freedom House project for which she serves as publisher, hopes to "enhance overall freedom in Iran" by providing a platform for democrats living inside Iran as well as outside of the country to "articulate their vision for an alternative future."

Memarsadeghi said "Gozaar," which in Persian means "transition," seeks to provide a place for an exchange of ideas. Available only on the Internet, this monthly magazine focuses on expanding freedom of expression for Iranians, as that is "the starting point for all other freedoms," Memarsadeghi said. An additional goal of "Gozaar," according to Memarsadeghi, is "to bridge the divide that exists between the World and Iran." While some news and analysis is available to Iranian citizens via satellite and radio, the missing ingredient, Memarsadeghi said, is "amplification of the voices of democrats living within Iran" to the outside world.

Beginning in the second half of the presidency of Mohammad Khatami and continuing under President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Memarsadeghi said, independent sources of news in Iran are being shut down. This makes initiatives like "Gozaar" very important, she said, and carries with it a responsibility to not just provide information, but to help Iranians to maintain a dialogue. Enhancing the freedom of expression, according to Memarsadeghi, is an "urgent" priority because, without it, "a country's social ills are impossible to solve." It also strengthens the democratic movement by providing the "organizational backbone" that allows people to talk to each other, she said, "providing freedom of association." A third reason for supporting freedom of expression in Iran, Memarsadeghi said, is that it fosters a demand for accountability from the country's highly corrupt government. In addition, the "plurality of opinion" already expressed at "Gozaar" demonstrates to the outside world that it is a "myth that [all] Iranians want the right to nuclear technology."

"Gozaar" plans to cover a wide range of issues, Memarsadeghi said. In its inaugural issue in September, Memarsadeghi said, it covered a "whole gamut of human rights issues," while the October issue reported on the state of Iran's prisons and the November issue covers Iran's ethnic and religious minorities. The journal's website includes a discussion forum after each article, so all readers may contribute ideas and thoughts to the site. The website also contains a resources page that compiles links to Persian and English language resources on democracy and human rights, "including manuals and guides on building the capacity of non-governmental organizations (NGOs)," she said.

The editorial team at "Gozaar" vets everything that is posted to the website and does not post inflammatory material, Memarsadeghi said. She added that the existence of "Gozaar" should contribute to breaking down the "self-censorship, which is rampant," among Iranian writers, journalists and bloggers. Memarsadeghi said that she hopes it can become the place for investigative journalism as well, noting that there are "over 100,000 unique bloggers in Persian."