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Systematic suppression of dissent continues

Iranian authorities are carrying out a lethal campaign to silence independent journalists and critics, report the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF). Two Iranian netizens and human rights activists are possibly facing the death penalty. RSF has accused the Iranian regime of crimes against humanity.

Bloggers Mehrdad Rahimi and Kouhyar Goudarzi have been accused of wanting to wage a war against God, reports RSF. They are facing possible execution. Recently, two other men were killed on 28 January for being enemies of God. "Iran carries out more executions annually than any other nation except China," says Human Rights Watch. In the latest trial, which began on 30 January, 16 defendants have been accused of being enemies of God, says RSF.

Both Rahimi and Goudarzi are members of the Committee of Human Rights Reporters, created by students and bloggers to pass on information about the crackdown that followed the disputed June 2009 presidential election, says RSF. Other members of the committee have also been arrested and are being held in Tehran's Evin prison.

The Iranian regime continues to find new ways to track dissent. "Mirror-sites" are being used by the authorities to hunt down Internet users, reports RSF. "Imitating the websites of foreign political organisations and news media, they invite visitors to send emails and videos about demonstrations or to post comments, and are used by the authorities to gather evidence to support charges of spying for foreign organisations."

Also, 15 newspapers received warnings last week for publishing comments critical of the regime, says RSF. Many journalists arrested 10 days ago have been denied contact with their families and lawyers. Several detainees in Evin prison are under extreme pressure to confess, and their names do not appear in the official prison registers or on the justice ministry website.

Arbitrary arrests and illegal detention of journalists are being ramped up. "Following their arrest, journalists are held in secret locations in extremely harsh conditions and with long periods of solitary confinement, in flagrant violation of their most fundamental rights," said RSF.

On 20 January, RSF urged the international community to speak out. "These incommunicado detentions... can be regarded as forced disappearances and crimes against humanity," said RSF.

Authorities are currently holding at least 47 journalists in prison, reports CPJ. "The relentlessness of the press crackdown in Iran demonstrates that authorities continue to fear new ideas and information." Journalists have been sentenced to lengthy prison terms, lashes, internal exile and lifetime bans on writing.

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