Iranian blogger Roozbeh Mirebrahimi, who fled his country after facing charges that arose from his writings critical of fundamentalists and conservatives in the Iranian regime, is the first “International Journalist in Residence” at the new City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism.The program represents a new initiative by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and the CUNY journalism school. It is designed to establish links between the American journalism community and international journalists forced to leave their countries under threat of violence and imprisonment.
As International Journalist in Residence, Mirebrahimi will have access to all of the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism’s research and technological facilities. He will attend classes and lead seminar discussions. His presence will give the next generation of American journalists a personal perspective on the plight of journalists for whom freedom of the press is matter of daily struggle.
“Roozbeh has already been a tremendous inspiration to us,” said Stephen Shepard, dean of the school. “We are honored to have him among us and to provide a professional and state-of-the-art environment in which he can continue his work.”
Mirebrahimi is chief editor of the online magazine, Iran dar Jahan (Iran in the World), and is a contributor to online newspapers that circumvent the censorship and intimidation of reporters in Iran.
He is currently on trial in absentia in Tehran, principally for reporting on the 2003 death in prison of Zahra Kazemi, a Canadian journalist arrested for espionage after taking photographs outside a notorious prison in Tehran.
“We congratulate Roozbeh and wish him every success as the first beneficiary of this exciting new program,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “So many journalists who are forced into exile are silenced forever. The International Journalist In Residence program will help ensure that Roozbeh’s voice will continue to be heard in Iran and around the world.”
A June 2007 CPJ survey of journalists forced into exile found that only 30% of journalists living outside their home countries are able to continue their work in the news media. Others must take jobs outside the profession, often positions that are far below their skill sets.
Mirebrahimi was arrested in 2004 in a government crackdown on pro-reform bloggers and spent two months in a cell only slightly larger than the size of his body. He was blindfolded and handcuffed except for brief periods, was tortured and ordered to stop reporting offending stories or change professions. Mirebrahimi and other bloggers were released after an international outcry.
Iranian journalists turned to blogging after the government systematically shut down newspapers that printed stories that drew objections from officials. Mirebrahimi worked for a series of newspapers that were shuttered. Last year, prosecutors in Tehran reopened his case and Mirebrahimi and his wife fled to New York.
“It is a bad situation in Iran for journalists,” he said. “I don’t know if you can do something like journalism there. So we work on the outside to get the truth to people by writing blogs.”
Mirebrahimi has written four books and is writing another about the first prime minister after the Islamic revolution in Iran. Government censors have banned one of them, a book about untold aspects of the revolution.
The CUNY Graduate School of Journalism and the Committee to Protect Journalists jointly fund the International Journalist in Residence program. The Correspondents Fund provided additional support.
The Committee to Protect Journalists is an independent, nonprofit organization founded in 1981. It promotes press freedom worldwide by defending the rights of journalists to report the news without fear of reprisal.
The CUNY Graduate School of Journalism opened in 2006 near Times Square; 100 students are enrolled in its three-semester program that teaches the craft of storytelling across media formats and reporting in specialty areas. The School is part of The City University of New York, the nation’s leading urban university.
For additional information, contact:
Committee to Protect Journalists
CUNY Graduate School of Journalism