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Repression stepped up yet again as Iran becomes world's biggest prison for journalists

(RSF/IFEX) - The Islamic Republic of Iran now ranks alongside China as the world's biggest prison for journalists. The crackdown has been intensified yet again following Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei's endorsement on 19 June 2009 of the result of the 12 June presidential election and the opposition's decision to call another demonstration for 20 June.

Iran now has a total of 30 journalists and cyber-dissidents in its jails, while journalists who could not be located at their homes have been summoned by telephone by Tehran prosecutor general Said Mortazavi.

"The force of the demonstrations in Tehran is increasing fears that more Iranian journalists could be arrested and more foreign journalists could be expelled," Reporters Without Borders said. "The regime has been visibly shaken by its own population and does not want to let this perception endure. That is why the media have become a priority target."

The press freedom organisation added: "The international community cannot continue to ignore the situation. It must have a clear and unanimous reaction that is proportionate to the gravity of these events. And there will never be any question of recognising the results of the 12 June election."

Reporters Without Borders already wrote to the leaders of the European Union's 27 member countries urging them not to recognise President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's reelection.

It has emerged that Mohammad Ghochani, the editor of "Etemad Meli" (a daily owned by Mehdi Karoubi, one of the opposition presidential candidates), was arrested at 2:00 a.m. (local time) on 18 June. Intelligence ministry officials took him away to an unknown location, probably the security wing of Tehran's Evin prison.

Ghochani is also the editor of the dailies "Shargh" and "Hammihan" and the weekly "Saharvand Emroz". The publication of all these newspapers had already been suspended before his arrest.

Reporters Without Borders has also learned that blogger and human rights activist Shiva Nazar Ahari was arrested at her Tehran home on 14 June (see her blog: http://azadiezan.blogspot.com ).

The press freedom organisation has had no confirmation of the fate of around 10 other journalists who are either detained or in hiding. They include Ali Mazroui, the head of the Association of Iranian Journalists, who was probably arrested on the morning of 20 June.

Journalists and activists held in Evin prison are being put under a lot of pressure to make filmed "confessions" acknowledging their participation in a "velvet revolution." Reporters Without Borders has also received many allegations of torture.

The state radio and TV broadcaster is meanwhile putting out false information about the opposition candidates and the cancellation of the 20 June demonstration. Foreign news agency correspondents are also being pressured not to report anything about the opposition.

A few hours after Ayatollah Khamenei's speech on 19 June endorsing Ahmadinejad's election and banning any demonstrations, several videos were posted online showing individuals on rooftops chanting "Allah Akbar!" (see this Iranian blogger's video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yZfmYq7O0WU ).

After being blocked since 11 June, the Iranian news website Entekhab ( http://www.entekhabnews.com ) has now been closed down on the orders of the Tehran prosecutor general.

At least 20 journalists had already been arrested since 12 June (see list below). Reporters Without Borders has not been able to trace many others. Some may have found refuge but others may now be with those of their colleagues who had already been in jail for some time. Even before the election, Iran was ranked as the Middle East's biggest prison for journalists and cyber-dissidents.

Twenty journalists have been arrested in the week since the presidential election results:

14 June:
- Somayeh Tohidloo, who also keeps a blog ( http://smto.ir )
- Ahmad Zeydabadi
- Kivan Samimi Behbani
- Abdolreza Tajik
- Mahssa Amrabad
- Behzad Basho, a cartoonist
- Khalil Mir Asharafi, a TV producer
- Karim Arghandeh, a blogger ( http://www.futurama.ir/ ) and reporter for pro-reform newspapers "Salam", "Vaghieh" and "Afaghieh", who was arrested at his Tehran home.
- Shiva Nazar Ahari, (see her blog: http://azadiezan.blogspot.com ).

15 June:
- Mohamad Atryanfar, the publisher of several newspapers including "Hamshary", Shargh" and "Shahrvand Emrouz", who has reportedly been taken to the security wing of Evin prison.
- Saeed Hajjarian, the former editor of the newspaper "Sobh-e-Emrouz", who was arrested at his Tehran home on the night of 15 June despite being badly handicapped.
- Mojtaba Pormohssen, who edits the newspaper "Gilan Emroz" and contributes to several other pro-reform newspapers and radio Zamaneh. He was arrested in the northern city of Rashat.

16 June:
- Mohammad Ali Abtahi, also known as the “Blogging Mullah,” who was arrested at his Tehran home. His blog: http://www.webneveshteha.com/ .
- Hamideh Mahhozi, arrested in the southern city of Boshehr.
- Amanolah Shojai, who is also a blogger. Arrested in Boshehr.
- Hossin Shkohi, who works for the weekly "Paygam Jonob". Arrested in Boshehr.
- Mashalah Hidarzadeh, arrested in Boshehr.

17 June:
- Saide Lylaz, a business reporter for the newspaper "Sarmayeh", who had been very critical of Ahmadinejad's policies. He was arrested at his Tehran home.
- Rohollah Shassavar, a journalist based in the city of Mashad.

18 June:
- Mohammad Ghochani, the editor of "Etemad Meli".

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
What other IFEX members are saying
Case history


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