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Two newspapers closed, detained journalists under pressure to request forgiveness

(RSF/IFEX) - Although a number of journalists and netizens have been freed in the past few days, the crackdown on media and journalists is continuing. The daily "Etemad" was suspended on 1 March 2010 and the weekly "Iran Dokht"'s licence has been cancelled. At the same time, journalists continue to be arrested in Tehran and many others throughout the country have received summonses.

Journalists held by the intelligence ministry are being subjected to considerable pressure to publicly ask the Revolution's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, for forgiveness. The Islamic Republic's prosecutor-general, Golamhosien Mohssenie Ejehie, said last week that "repentance" was "one of the conditions" for the release of political prisoners.

"The release of a number of journalists is obviously good news but we continue to demand the release of all the journalists and netizens being held arbitrarily, in violation of Iran's laws, including those convicted without due process," Reporters Without Borders said.

"Why must these journalists offer apologies when all they did was inform their fellow citizens?" the press freedom organisation added. "After arresting 110 journalists and censoring at least 20 media in the past eight months, it is the government that should request the forgiveness of its victims when it releases them."

"Etemad" was suspended after publishing the reactions of pro-reform parliamentarians to video footage broadcast by BBC Persian showing police and militiamen beating and clubbing students during a raid on the Tehran university campus on 15 June that was apparently filmed by the security forces themselves.

In an article in "Etemad", the pro-reform parliamentarians requested the release of the full version of the report by the parliamentary commission that was appointed to investigate the incident. The Iranian authorities have meanwhile questioned the video's authenticity.

"Iran Dokht"'s licence was cancelled on the orders of the Press Surveillance Commission, an offshoot of the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, for "non-compliance with the press law," the same reason that the ministry has given for closing many pro-reform publications in the past.

Akbar Montajabi, an "Iran Dokht" journalist who was arrested on 7 February, is still being held.

Three journalists were freed on 1 March. They were "Biste Saleha" editor Mohammad Reza Moghisseh, who was arrested on 14 October, Mahsa Jazini of the Isfahan-based daily "Iran", who was arrested on 7 February, and Foad Sadeghi, the editor of the Ayandenews website, who was arrested on 12 February. Kivan Mehrgan of "Etemad", who was arrested on 28 December, was freed on 2 March. All four were released on bail pending trial.
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