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More journalists arrested in ongoing government crackdown

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders accuses the Iranian authorities of arresting and jailing Iranian journalists in a manner that is illegal and violates international judicial standards. Journalists are also being summoned and threatened in a bid to force them to stop working for newspapers, especially foreign ones.

"We demand the immediate and unconditional release of journalists held without legal grounds," Reporters Without Borders said. "Iran is the world's biggest prison for journalists, with a total of 42 held. Most of those in section 209 of Tehran's Evin prison are mistreated and are subjected to a great deal of psychological pressure. They are illegally denied the right to visits by relatives and lawyers. Terror is at the heart of the methods used against them."

Reporters Without Borders has just learned of the arrest of Reza Rafiee Foroshani, a freelance journalist who works for local and international media including "The Times." It has only now been reported that Foroshani was arrested on 26 June in Tehran and that he is being pressured by intelligence ministry agents to make some kind of confession.

The minister of intelligence, Golamhossin Mohsseniejehi, has on several occasions acknowledged that journalists have been arrested and he has accused them of "collaborating with foreign media" and being responsible for the "rioting."

Hassan Shikh Aghai, a leading Kurdish columnist and cartoonist, was arrested on 18 July in the city of Mahabad, in Iran's Kurdish northwestern region, and his home was searched. It is not yet known why he was arrested and where he is now being held.

Mehdi Zaboli, a photographer with the newspaper Hamshahri who was arrested on 20 June, was freed on bail on 5 July.

Several journalists have been summoned for questioning by the "security police," a newly-created force that is run by a joint committee formed by the ministry of intelligence and the Revolutionary Guards.

Meanwhile, Reporters Without Borders has learned of cases of detained journalists being transferred to prisons in the provinces. "Payam-e Mardom-e Kurdestan" editor Mohammad Sadegh Kabodvand, who had been held in Evin prison since July 2007, has been transferred to Mahabad.

Voicing concern about his health, Kabodvand's wife, Parnaz Hassni, told Reporters Without Borders she did not know the reason for the transfer. Kabodvand has been in poor health for some time but has been refused permission to receive treatment outside of prison on the grounds that he has "not yet served three years of his sentence."

Kabodvand's 11-year jail sentence for creating a human rights organisation in Iranian Kurdistan was confirmed by a Tehran appeal court on 23 October 2008. Kabodvand was the winner of the UK Press Gazette's British Press Awards in the "International journalist of the year" category in March. The judges cited his work on behalf of human rights.
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