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Journalist gets two-year sentence; two others barred from leaving the country; weekly paper closed

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders has deplored a two-year prison sentence imposed on a provincial newspaper journalist, as well as the closure of a weekly paper and a ban on two journalists from leaving the country.

"The Iranian press and its journalists continue to be the victims of injustice and four are currently in prison," the worldwide press freedom organisation said. "Many are hounded at their workplace, followed in the street, thrown in prison without ever being able to see a lawyer and are forbidden to leave the country. The ministry of culture and Islamic guidance still exerts strong censorship and lists of banned topics are regularly sent to editors."

Reporter Kaveh Javanmard, of the weekly "Karfto", was ordered jailed for two years by a court in Sanandej (Iranian Kurdistan) on 17 May 2007 and will serve his sentence at a prison in the northern town of Maragheh, more than 300 km from his family home. He was tried in secret and was not allowed to have a lawyer.

Court officials in the southeastern province of Sistan-o-Baluchistan went to the offices of the weekly "Ayaran" on 21 May and shut it down, saying it would be prosecuted for printing statements by Sunni leaders that were "inaccurate" and "likely to inflame the public" and "spread separatist ideas."

Journalism student Mehrnoushe Solouki, who has dual French and Iranian nationality, has been banned from leaving the country since she was arrested on 17 February. She had gone to Teheran last December as part of her studies at Quebec University in Canada to make a documentary on the aftermath of the 1988 ceasefire between Iran and Iraq. She was held in Evin prison for a month for filming the families of the victims of violence in the 1980s and her notes and film were confiscated. She was freed on 19 March on bail of 100 million toumen (80,000 euros) but her passport was retained, preventing her from leaving Iran.

The passport of Iranian-American journalist Parnaz Azima was seized when she arrived at Teheran airport on 25 January and has still not been returned, preventing her too from leaving the country. It was also confiscated for three weeks last year by the intelligence services. The judge in the case has demanded bail of 400 million tounen (320,000 euros). She has been interrogated several times by intelligence agents who want her to work with them.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the country's Supreme Guide, Ayatollah Khamenei, are both on the Reporters Without Borders worldwide list of predators of press freedom.

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