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Warrant issued for arrest of opposition daily's editor following his criticism of President Ahmadinejad

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders calls on the authorities not to execute the warrant issued on 1 July 2008 for the arrest of Mohammad Javad Haghshenas, the editor of "Etemad Melli", a daily newspaper that is the mouthpiece of the pro-reform party of the same name. The warrant was prompted by an article critical of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that was previously posted on a blog.

"Repressive measures against journalists who oppose President Ahmadinejad or dare to criticise his policies have become commonplace," Reporters Without Borders said. "The room for freedom in Iran was already considerably reduced but it continues to get smaller by the day and the president is increasingly being regarded as untouchable."

The warrant for the arrest of Haghshenas was issued by the Tehran prosecutor's office for "publishing false information designed to upset public opinion." His newspaper has reportedly not been threatened with closure but the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance warned it about making "baseless allegations about the president."

The measures were taken in response to an article in the 30 June issue by Rasoul Montajab-Nia, a religious leader and member of the Etemad Melli party, condemning President Ahmadinejad's much-criticised comment in May that the hand of the Mahdi (regarded by Shiites as the twelfth and last Imam) was "visible in the management of all the country's affairs."

Montajab-Nia wrote in his article, which he posted as an entry in his blog, that such comments "undermine the beliefs of the people and are increasingly mocked by the enemies of Islam." He was reportedly not notified in advance that the entry was going to be published in the newspaper. The Etemad Melli party is led by Mehdi Kerroubi, who ran against Ahmadinejad in the 2005 presidential election.

Many publications and websites have been prosecuted or closed on administrative orders for criticising Ahmadinejad since he became president. The daily "Tehran Emrooz" was stripped of its licence in June 2008 after running a series of reports pouring scorn on Ahmadinejad's economic management while mayor of Tehran, before he became president.

The council of state closed the website Baztab ( http://en.baztab.com/ ) in March 2007 after it was the target of many complaints brought by Ahmadinejad supporters.

For further information on the "Tehran Emrooz" case, see: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/94823

For further information on the Baztab website case, see: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/86497

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