(Washington, DC--April 24, 2007) Broadcasting Board of Governors Chairman Kenneth Y. Tomlinson and RFE/RL President Jeffrey Gedmin condemned news that the Iranian government plans to keep RFE/RL journalist Parnaz Azima from leaving Iran for "two or three years," in defiance of Azima's wishes.
Tomlinson said, "The Iranian government's refusal to allow Radio Farda journalist Parnaz Azima to leave the country underlines that government's attitude toward basic human rights as well as its refusal to accept a free press and an open society."
For his part, Gedmin said, "I find it contemptible that Iranian government officials are, in essence, criminalizing the efforts of a daughter to visit her severely ill mother. Parnaz Azima is being kept in Iran against her will, in a form of virtual house arrest. I urge the Iranian government to release Mrs. Azima now, so that she can return to her professional duties and, more important, to her children and grandchildren living outside of Iran."
Azima entered Iran on January 25 to visit her ailing and hospitalized mother. On arrival, officials at the airport in Tehran seized her Iranian passport. Since then, Azima has tried unsuccessfully to reclaim the passport on several occasions.
Most recently, one of the lawyers representing Azima, Mohammad-Hossein Aqasi, visited the Security Department of Tehran's Revolutionary Court on Monday, April 23 to reclaim Azima's passport. During this meeting, Aqasi was told by an official attached to the Security Department that Azima's passport will not be returned to her any time soon and "she will remain in Tehran for two or three years." According to Aqasi, the offical dismissed all appeals to the letter of Iranian law in refusing to return Azima's passport.
Azima is a broadcaster with Radio Farda, the joint RFE/RL-Voice of America 24-hour, seven-day-a-week Persian-language broadcast service to Iran. She joined RFE/RL in 1998 and is based at RFE/RL's broadcast headquarters in Prague, Czech Republic. Azima endured a similar situation in Iran during the spring of 2006, when her Iranian passport was seized and held for several weeks before being returned to her.