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Government cracks down on foreign news media

IPI calls for end to media crackdown in Iran

(IPI/IFEX) - VIENNA, 17 June 2009 - IPI today called on Iranian authorities to honour their reassurances, made earlier in the week, that journalists would be allowed to report freely on developments in the country, rocked by violent clashes since last Friday's contested election results.

As protesters gathered on the streets of Tehran, the Iranian government cracked down on foreign news networks, their correspondents and film crews. As of Sunday, foreign media were not allowed to film in areas where opposition supporters were demonstrating. The authorities appeared to change their policy after Monday's thousands-strong demonstration, according to ARD's editor-in-chief Thomas Baumann. Reporters were told that they would now be allowed to film and report freely, with their own camera crews, from any part of the city.

But on Tuesday, the Culture Ministry announced that foreign press could not cover "unauthorized" demonstrations-including the massive rally that evening in support of opposition candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi. By the afternoon, authorities had told all foreign journalists that they are banned from reporting on the streets, and are not allowed to use images or eyewitness reports of any violence.

"The authorities' assurances that there would be no more restrictions on media coverage gave cause for optimism on Monday afternoon. Subsequent developments, however, have left no doubt about the authorities' intention to censor news not in their favour," said IPI Director David Dadge. "In a world where news is instant, it is deeply depressing to see a government still seeking to prevent the free flow of information without realising it is already seeping out through every pore and fissure in Iranian society."

News of the restrictions follows disturbing reports of widespread interference with the media, including Internet site blocking, jamming of satellite broadcasts, office raids, brief arrests and several reported police beatings.

The restrictions have made it difficult to obtain reliable information. "The worst thing is that we have no real opportunity to go anywhere we want. We cannot use our crew, and so we must rely on others' footage," said Baumann, who noted that it is "not sufficient" to simply have live interviews with correspondent Peter Mezger, because "He can't move. His radius is very narrow."

Instead, much of the available information is coming through Twitter and other Internet sources, including privately posted footage. But early Wednesday, these sources were also targeted, reported the Associated Press, with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard warning online media to remove all content that might "create tension," or face legal consequences.

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