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Jailed journalist on hunger strike; opposition party website editor arrested

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders is very concerned about the health of journalist Mohammad Hassin Falahieh Zadeh, who was transferred to the infirmary of Tehran's Evin prison on 8 September 2009 as a result of the hunger strike he began last week. Arrested in November 2006, Zadeh has been detained longer than any other journalist in Iran.

In a separate development, Mohammad Davari, the editor of Saham News, the website of opposition presidential candidate Mehdi Karoubi's party newspaper, "Etemad-e Melli", was arrested on 8 September.

"We call for more information about Zadeh's state of health, given his unique and critical situation," Reporters Without Borders said. "Unfairly convicted in a secret trial without his lawyer being able to attend, and stripped of his rights, he has been held with common criminals or in solitary confinement in Evin prison's Section 209."

The press freedom organisation added: "Zadeh clearly believes he no longer has any other recourse against the injustice that has been done to him. His life is in the hands of the Iranian authorities and, in particularly, those in charge of Evin prison."

Zadeh worked for the Arabic-language service of state-owned TV station Al-Alam while freelancing for many Arab news media outlets such as the Lebanese daily "Al-Mostaqbal", Abu Dhabi TV and Radio Dubai. After being arrested in November 2006 on a spying charge, he was sentenced on 29 April 2007 to three years in prison.

He was also sentenced to pay a fine that was the equivalent of twice what he earns as a journalist. Unable to pay, he has staged several hunger strikes, including one in October of last year as well as the one he began last week.

Meanwhile, Davari was arrested during a raid on Mehdi Karoubi's party headquarters in north Tehran in which computers, files and film were seized. The website he edits, which has been blocked since the start of last week, had been carrying reports of mistreatment and rape in Iranian prisons.

Karoubi was one of the leading candidates running against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in last June's disputed election. Karoubi spokesman Esmail Gherami Moghaddam said the party office was closed "on the orders of the Tehran prosecutor general," Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi.

The Committee for the Defence of Prisoners' Rights, which is headed by Emadeddin Baghi and which supports the reform movement, has also had its offices closed by the authorities.

Iran is one of the 12 countries on the Reporters Without Borders list of Enemies of the Internet. A total of 26 journalists and six cyber-dissidents are currently detained in Iran, whose authorities boast of blocking access to hundreds of thousands of websites. It was ranked 166th out of 173 countries in the 2008 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.

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