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Journalist receives one-year prison sentence, another released on bail; Kurdish weekly's licence withdrawn, paper closed

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders condemns the definitive closure of the Kurdish weekly "Karfto" by the Commission for Press Authorisation and Surveillance, an offshoot of the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance. Its licence was withdrawn for good on 29 December 2007 on the grounds of "failure to publish regularly."

The press freedom organisation also condemns the one-year prison sentence imposed on Abolfazl Abedini Nasr of the weekly "Bahar Khozestan" at the end of a trial held behind closed doors in the southwestern city of Ahvaz on 24 December without his lawyer being present.

"We deplore this latest act of censorship, in which yet another independent newspaper has been silenced," Reporters Without Borders said. "Despite many temporary suspensions, the staff of 'Karfto' had refused to kowtow, so the authorities decided to get rid of it for good. Two of its journalists have been in prison for the past few months and this decision makes their situation even more delicate."

On the day its licence was withdrawn, 29 December, Karfto had not been published for 23 days. According to the law, a newspaper can let six months go by without publishing an issue before its licence is withdrawn. Since Karfto's launch in 2005, only 62 issues had been produced because it had been suspended many times and because senior staff members, including publisher Lila Madani and Behzad Koshhlai, had been repeatedly summoned for questioning.

Based in Sanandaj, the capital of the northwestern province of Kurdistan, "Karfto" was published in two languages, Farsi and Kurdish.

The two "Karfto" journalists currently in prison are Ako Kurdnasab and Kaveh Javanmard. Kurdnasab is serving a six-month sentence in Sanandaj prison for "trying to overthrow the regime by journalistic activities." It was confirmed by the Sanandaj appeal court on 13 November. Javanmard was transferred on 29 December to a prison in the northern city of Maragheh, 300 km from where his family lives.

Meanwhile, Omid Ahamadzadeh, a journalist who had been arrested by intelligence ministry officials in Sanandaj on 28 November, was freed on bail on 27 December. It is still not known what he is charged with. He used to write for "Aso" and "Didgah", two newspapers that have been suspended since 2005.

In the southwest of the country, Nasr's one-year sentence was passed by a revolutionary court in Ahvaz on 24 December after it found him guilty of "inciting workers to revolt" and "relations with foreign news media."

In the nearby city of Shiraz, police stormed into the premises of the daily "Tahlil Rooz" on 31 December and assaulted the journalists present because they had taken photos of a clash between police and demonstrators in a nearby street. One of the journalists, Mohamad Hassin Shaltokar, who was hit several times in the face, was taken to hospital. The journalists subsequently tried to file a complaint but the police refused to register it.

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Mujeres periodistas fueron agredidas en la apertura de edificio presidencial https://t.co/NzEgznMR4P @ANPBOLIVIA #Ataques

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