Thursday, August 19, 1999


Massoud Behnoud, a prominent Iranian journalist and writer, was born on 27 July 1947 in Tehran. He started his work as a journalist in 1964. During his long career he worked as an investigating journalist for different newspapers. He founded more than 20 newspapers and magazines, none of them are currently in publication.

Between 1971-79 he was the chief editor of the most influential and popular daily in Iran "Ayandegan". This newspaper was closed in 1979 on the orders of Ayatollah Khomeini and its editor and senior staff were all imprisoned. During 1972-79 he also worked as a producer, writer and speaker for the "National Iranian Radio and Television". In 1979 Massoud Behnoud became the chief editor of the weekly "Tehran-e Mosavar", which was shut down by the Islamic government after 30 issues during the crackdown of all non-governmental and independent newspapers.

Between 1972-1979 Massoud Behnoud was one of the most important and active figures of the trade union of Iranian journalists.

From 1979 till 1985, after the closure of "Tehran-e Mosavar" as well as the trade union of Iranian journalists Massoud Behnoud didn´t have any possibilities to continue his work. From 1981-1985 he led a low profile existence (more or less in hiding) in Teheran.

In 1985 he was one of the founders of "Adineh", the most prominent and influential social and literary monthly in Iran. For more than 13 years Massoud Behnoud was one of the leading members of the editorial board and published a great number of essays and commentaries in "Adineh". In his articles he supported the freedom of speech and of the press. He struggled against censorship and tried to support the free circulation of information.

Once in 1995 the trade union of Armenian writers invited 22 Iranian writers and journalist for a visit to Armenistan. Massoud Behnoud was one of these delegates. In a conspiracy to kill all of the delegates the Iranian security police tried to divert the bus they were travelling with on a steep valley. They only survived by chance.

In 1996 the chief editor of "Adineh", Faraj Sarkohi, was arrested and in 1998 "Adineh" was closed on the order of the Islamic court. The imprisonment of Faraj Sarkohi aroused an International campaign from Reporter sans Frontieres, the International PEN-Center, amnesty international and other human right organizations as well as the European Union.

In 1997 Massoud Behnoud joined a host of other journalists to publish the Teheran daily "Jameh" His articles and commentaries were received with a great deal of public interest. With the closure of "Jameh" he continued his work in the other newly found dailies "Tous", "Neshat", "Asr-e Azadegan" and the most lately "Bonyan". All of this newspapers have been closed down.

Following a series of murders in 1999 during which some prominent Iranian writers and intellectuals have been killed by the security police, Massoud Behnoud´s name was also discovered on the list of those writers and intellectuals who hade been earmarked for assassination.

After the crackdown of the Iranian newspapers Massoud Behnoud together with other well known journalists like Mashallah Shamsolvaezin, Akbar Ganji, Emadeddin Baqi and Ebrahim Nabavi was imprisoned for a period of 23 months. He had to fine a sum equivalent to 15.000 USD. The court accused him of "having provoked public opinion, insulting the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic and the commander of the Revolutionary guards". The sentence against Massoud Behnoud and other journalists aroused a lot of protest from Reporter sans Frontieres, the International PEN-Center, amnesty international and other human right organizations.

After serving a a period of 6 months, two of which he spent in solitary confinement, Massoud Behnoud was released temporarily on bail of some 40,000 USD.

On 1 June 2002 while Massoud Behnoud was engaged in a European lecture tour the Iranian juridical authorities announced that an order for his arrest has been once again issued. On base of this order he had to come back to Iran to serve the remainder of his 16 months term in prison.

It is also possible that they put him again to court on charge of "having insulted the Supreme Leader" by his writing. This charge is one of the most dangerous charges in Iran.