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French teacher freed after paying heavy fine as crackdown against press continues

(RSF/IFEX) - 16 May 2010 - Reporters Without Borders today expressed relief at the official news that teacher Clothilde Reiss was on her way home to France from Iran but pointed out that many journalists remain in prison amid a continuing crackdown.

"This good news should not allow us to forget the ongoing repression and that many journalists are still in jail as pressure mounts ahead of the first anniversary of the contested re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinedjad as president on 12 June", the worldwide press freedom organisation said.

The intelligence ministry has summoned Iran's journalists and made them sign written promises not to cover any future demonstrations.

Elsewhere, journalist Henghameh Shahidi was sentenced on 8 May to six years in prison for "propaganda against the regime", "taking part in illegal demonstrations" and "acting against national security".

Meanwhile, the health of imprisoned journalists has been deteriorating. Emadoldin Baghi, Badrolssadat Mofidi, Mahbobeh Karami, Said Matinepour and Hanghameh Shahidi all require medical treatment, which they have been refused.

Press freedom has been under serious attack in Iran since 2009. Around 40 newspapers and websites have been shut down and some 3000 journalists can no longer work for fear of repression. Several netizens are also currently in jail, for having, like Clothilde Reiss, transmitted photos and news about opposition demonstrations.

Reiss, a French teacher at Isfahan University in central Iran, was arrested on 1 July 2009 when she was about to leave the country. She was accused of "damaging Iran's national security" for gathering information about opposition demonstrations against Ahmadinedjad in Isfahan on 15 and 17 June.

She was released on bail on 16 August and placed under house arrest at the French embassy in Tehran. Two five-year jail sentences against her were replaced on 15 May by a heavy fine equivalent to 285,000 euros. She did not appeal.

Reiss and her family were due to be received by French President Nicolas Sarkozy after her arrival back in France.

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