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RSF assesses media toll of six-month crackdown

(RSF/IFEX) - 12 December 2009 - Six months after Iran's disputed 12 June presidential election, the authorities continue to censor news and information and persecute journalists. More than 100 journalists have been arrested in these past six months and around 50 have fled into exile. A dozen newspapers have been closed by the authorities and access to thousands of Internet pages has been blocked.

More than 100 arrests, 3 billion toman in bail, and near 65 years in prison

Within hours of the announcement of President Mahmoud Ahmadinedjad's election "victory," journalists were being arrested by the intelligence ministry, Revolutionary Guards and other security services. Most were taken to Tehran's Evin prison. At least 100 journalists and bloggers have been arrested since 12 June and 27 are still being held. Iran is one of the world's five biggest prisons for journalists.

Like Chile's national stadium in Santiago after the 1973 military coup, Evin prison has been turned into a massive holding centre for political detainees, most of whom are mistreated and subject to considerable psychological harassment.

Some journalists have been freed in exchange for the payment of exorbitant sums in bail, after being given prison sentences ranging from five to nine years. Others have been released pending trial.

Meanwhile, journalists continue to be harassed in the major provincial cities such as Mashhad, Isfahan, Shiraz and Tabriz, where they are often summoned, interrogated and threatened.

All-out censorship of national and international media

Since the day after Ahmadinejad's poll "victory," the national and international media have been subject to massive and systematic censorship that is without precedent in Iran. For the first time since the 1979 revolution, the security services have been systematically vetting the content of newspapers before they are published.

Several newspapers have been censored after publishing articles contradicting the official line, while others, including more than 10 national dailies, have been closed down altogether. They include Kalameh Sabz (13 June), Etemad-e Melli (17 August) and the business newspaper Sarmayeh (2 November). The latest is the daily Hayat-e no, closed down on 8 December after carrying reports about the crackdown on the previous day's National Student Day protests.

The authorities have increasingly demonised the foreign media, especially the western media, since 12 June, accusing them of being the "mouthpieces of the rioters." The ministry of culture and Islamic orientation issued a decree on 16 June banning foreign media from "participating in or covering gatherings organised without the interior ministry's permission."

Several foreign journalists have been forced to leave the country while those who have been able to stay are under constant pressure. One the eve of the 7 December demonstrations, some were told that their accreditation had just been suspended for 72 hours.

To read the full report, click here

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