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Pro-reform newspaper, online news agency shut down by authorities

(IFJ/IFEX) - The following is an IFJ media release:

IFJ Condemns "Climate of Intimidation" as Iran Attacks Independent Press

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today accused Iran of "creating a climate of intimidation against press freedom" after the authorities in Tehran banned a pro-reform newspaper and a news agency.

Ham Mihan, a pro-reform newspaper, and the ILNA online news agency were both shut down by the authorities last Tuesday. At the weekend Culture Minister Hossein Saffar Harandi accused media of a "creeping coup" in a new attack on reformist and liberal media that have been critical of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for failing to deliver on promises to improve the economy.

"It is outrageous for the government to interpret critical reporting as proof of a plot," said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. "Journalists are only doing their job and this sort of response creates a climate of intimidation that only weakens press freedom in the country."

There are reports that President Ahmadinejad has set up a special unit to counter "black propaganda against the government." And Iran even launched its own English-language news channel, Press TV, last week in a bid to break what it called the West's "stranglehold" over the world's media.

The IFJ says journalists are under intense pressure not to step out of line in an increasingly intolerant Iran. Since 2000, Iran's Press Supervisory Board and judiciary have closed down more than 100 publications, although many simply reopened or changed names. The IFJ is supporting the efforts of its affiliate in Iran, the Association of Iranian Journalists, which has also criticised the closure of Ham Mihan, saying it is an attack on the people's right to know.

"We stand by journalists in Iran in their fight for professional rights and against these latest attacks," said White. "It is absurd to accuse local media of being involved in some United States-inspired plot to destabilise the country. Journalists must be free to work without any threats and these latest actions against media must be reversed."

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 114 countries worldwide

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