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Journalist arrested; weekly suspended; daily in danger of losing licence

(RSF/IFEX) - On 28 April 2008, Iran's press surveillance commission ordered the conditional closure of reformist daily "Hambasteghi", following the arrest earlier in April of journalist Masud Rafai Taleghani, of the daily "Farhangh Ashati", and suspension a week later of the weekly "Paygam Borujerd", on a complaint from the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Orientation.

"Censorship, unfair arrests, and unjust convictions are the everyday lot of the Iranian daily press," said Reporters Without Borders, adding, "The authorities must put an end to such practices".

"Masud Rafai Taleghani's name is now added to the list of journalists imprisoned in Iran," the worldwide press freedom organisation said. Ten are already in jail, making Iran the Middle East's biggest prison for journalists.

Intelligence ministry agents raided Rafai Taleghani's Tehran home on 13 April. They searched his home, seized his computer, arrested him and took him to a secret location. No reasons for his arrest have been made public.

In another case, on 19 April, the weekly "Paygam Borujerd" was suspended on the order of the general revolutionary court of the city of Borujerd, Lorestan province, in south-western Iran, following a complaint from the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Orientation. It related to the publication of an article by the son of a leading religious figure viewed as "offensive and insulting towards the people".

Furthermore, the daily "Hambasteghi", which has lost its publication director, is now in danger of losing its licence to publish. In an interview with the news agency Farsnews, an official of the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Orientation, Mohammad Parvizi, said that under Article 14 of the press code, the paper had three months to recruit a new manager. If it had not done so within that period, the commission would be able to withdraw its licence and force its closure.

"The press surveillance commission and its supervisory authority, the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Orientation, regularly usurp the role of the courts," Reporters Without Borders said. More than 150 newspapers have been closed in Iran since 2000.

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