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Foreign reporter freed, but local journalists continue to be harassed and arrested

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders is very worried about imprisoned journalist Saeed Hajjarian, the former editor of the newspaper "Sobh-e-Emrouz", who was taken to hospital on the evening of 3 July 2009, apparently in a coma. Hajjarian was arrested at his Tehran home on the night of 15 June, despite being badly handicapped.

His wife, who is a doctor, and his doctor, who now lives in the United States, have written an open letter to the authorities calling for his release. "He must not remain in prison if you want him to stay alive," they say in the letter.

"Hajjarian must be treated immediately by independent doctors, and his family and his doctor must be kept informed," Reporters Without Borders said. "We also reiterate our appeal to the Iranian authorities to allow a UN emissary to have access to Evin prison, especially section 209, so that the world can know what is going on there."

Reporters Without Borders has meanwhile learned that journalist Masoud Bastani was arrested on 4 July while trying to visit his wife, fellow journalist Massa Amrabadi, in Evin prison. Amrabadi was arrested on 14 June despite being pregnant.

Issa Saharkhiz, a pro-reform journalist and former editor of "Aftab" (a magazine suspended in 2004) and "Akhbar Eghtesad" (a newspaper suspended in 2005), was also arrested on 4 July. He was beaten at the time of his arrest, which took place at his home. His family has had no word of him since.

Reporters Without Borders welcomes the 5 July release of Iason Athanasiadis-Foden, a British-Greek journalist employed by the "Washington Times" who was arrested at Tehran airport on 19 June as he was about to leave the country. Confirming his detention on 23 June, Iranian foreign minister Hassan Qashqavi said he was arrested for "reasons conflicting with journalism and in relation with the recent street riots."

As far as Reporters Without Borders knows, he is the only non-Iranian journalist to have been jailed since the 12 June Iranian elections.

Meanwhile, "Newsweek"'s Iran correspondent, Maziar Bahari, who has joint Iranian and Canadian citizenship, was accused on 4 July of "activities against national security," his lawyer said. Bahari, who used to work for the BBC, has not been able to see his lawyer since his arrest on 21 June.

Fars News, an Iranian news agency that supports Tehran prosecutor general Said Mortazavi, distributed a video on 30 June showing Bahari confessing to being a spy in the pay of foreign powers and to helping to organise a "velvet revolution."

A total of 35 journalists and bloggers are currently imprisoned in Iran.

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