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Woman journalist detained for criticising police behaviour in demonstration; two weeklies suspended

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders calls on the Iranian authorities to release journalist Mahboubeh Karami of the government news agency ISNA at once. She has not seen a lawyer since her arrest in Tehran on 13 June 2008 after criticising police for beating demonstrators. The organisation is also concerned about the suspension of two weekly newspapers in the west of the country.

"Mahboubeh Karami's detention constitutes a denial of justice," Reporters Without Borders said. "The authorities reacted in a disproportionate manner, with the aim of frightening all those who might dare to criticise abuse of authority. At the same time, the arbitrary suspension of newspapers must stop. At least 15 have been banned since the start of the year."

Karami was on a bus in which demonstrators sought refuge from the police who were pursuing them, and she was arrested after protesting about the behaviour of the police. She is being held on a charge of "activity against national security" in security section 209 of Tehran's Evin prison, where she was in solitary confinement until she staged a hunger strike. Now she is being held with other detainees.

Reporters Without Borders has learned that she has been interrogated many times about her activities as a journalist and as an activist in the "One million signatures" campaign for the amendment of laws that discriminate against women.

Human rights lawyer and Nobel Peace laureate Shirin Ebadi told Reporters Without Borders that Karami's arrest "did not comply with Iranian law." An exorbitant amount of bail, 100 million toumen (approx. 80,000 euros), has been demanded for her release.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance suspended "Bahar Borujerd", a weekly based in Borujerd, in the western province of Lorestan, on 2 July for allegedly publishing inaccurate information. Its editor, Mostafa Rahabar, said the authorities gave no other explanation. Rahabar was briefly arrested in August 2007 for criticising Borujerd University's repressive policy on wearing a headscarf.

Another local weekly, "Paygam Borujerd", was suspended at the behest of a local revolutionary court in April.

"Botak", a weekly based in the nearby province of Ilam, was suspended at the behest of the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance on 19 July after publishing an article critical of the province's governor.

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