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Another journalist arrested; leading daily suspended again

(RSF/IFEX) - RSF has called for the release of Soheil Assefi, a journalist who was arrested when he presented himself to a Tehran court on 4 August 2007 in response to a summons. Neither his family nor his lawyers know where he is being held or with what he is charged. Officials from the prosecutor's office searched his home on 31 July, taking personal documents and his computer's hard disk.

"This situation is unacceptable," the press freedom organisation said. "He is the third journalist to be arrested in the space of week. His detention brings to 11 the number of journalists and cyber-dissidents held in Iran, which is the Middle East's biggest prison for the press. Iran must stop hounding journalists by bringing trumped-up charges against them."

Assefi's detention was preceded by the arrests of Masoud Bastani and Farshad Gorbanpour, two journalists working for the news website Roozonline and pro-reform newspapers, on 31 July. Bastani was freed after several hours, but Gorbanpour was transferred to security section 209 in Tehran's Evin prison on the orders of Tehran prosecutor Said Mortazavi. Neither was officially charged (see IFEX alert of 1 August 2007).

RSF also condemns the suspension on 5 August of the daily "Shargh" on the orders of the Commission for Media Authorisation and Surveillance for publishing an interview with Saghi Ghahram, a writer, poet and editor of the online exile newspaper "Cheraq", in which she defended homosexuals. The commission is controlled by the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance.

"Shargh" was previously suspended on 11 September 2006 for publishing a cartoon that was deemed to have insulted President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The newspaper had been allowed to resume operating on 13 May 2007, after a drawn-out judicial case.

Finally, RSF also condemns the continuing impunity in the murder more than a year ago of Ayfer Serçe, a Turkish journalist of Kurdish origin. Serçe was killed by Iranian soldiers some time between 20 and 23 July 2006 in Keleres, in the northwestern province of Azarbayjan. The Iranian authorities refused to hand over her body to her family and the exact circumstances of her death are still unclear.

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