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Repressive mania continues as more journalists arrested

(RSF/IFEX) - A crackdown against journalists and cyber-dissidents is continuing in Iran with both Iranian and foreign journalists caught in the eye of the post-election storm, Reporters Without Borders said. Among the latest arrests was that of a correspondent for the US magazine "Newsweek", Maziar Bahari, picked up at his home in Tehran on 21 June 2009.

"The authorities are using all possible methods to drive foreign journalists out of Iran, where they are unwanted witnesses to bloody repression," the worldwide press freedom organisation said. "The arrest of the 'Newsweek' correspondent is a clear sign of the regime's determination to intimidate journalists whether Iranian or foreign, local or international newspaper correspondents."

The latest arrests bring the number of journalists picked up and imprisoned since the disputed presidential election to 26.

"After demonising the foreign media, the authorities are trying to have it believed that Iranian journalists are spies in the pay of foreigners, confusing news reporting with spying," it added.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon on 23 June urged the Iranian authorities to respect fundamental civil and political rights, including freedom of expression, the right to inform the public and of free assembly.

The Iran security services went to the home of Bahari, 41, early in the morning of 21 June and seized his computer and video recordings. He had been interrogated on 17 June by the Guardians of the Revolution about one of his video recordings relating to the death of a demonstrator. His family said that they have had no news of him since his arrest, according to information obtained by Reporters Without Borders. "Newsweek" put out a statement on 22 June strongly condemning his arrest and calling for his immediate release.

Elsewhere, Reporters Without Borders learned of the arrest at midnight on 22 June of Mostafa Ghavnlo Ghajar, a contributor to several newspapers and a specialist on foreign media on Radio Goftogo (see his blog : ), at his home. Freelance journalist Fariborez Srosh was also reportedly arrested on 16 June. He has been imprisoned in the past because of his work with Radio Farda (Radio Free Europe).

RSF is very concerned by early reports of torture and maltreatment in Evin prison, where most of those arrested are being held. According to information obtained by RSF, the journalists were transferred to Section 209 of the jail where they are coming under heavy pressure to make filmed "confessions" about their "involvement in a velvet revolution."

Eleven days after the presidential election, 26 journalists are currently behind bars. With a total of 36 journalists now jailed, Iran is the world's biggest prison for journalists, ahead of China and Cuba.

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