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Journalist sentenced to six years in prison, another one expelled amidst crackdown on media professionals

(RSF/IFEX) - 15 March 2011 - As UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon stated in a report to the UN Human Rights Council, Iran has intensified its crackdown on media professionals. Agence France-Presse's (AFP) bureau chief was expelled at the end of last week. In addition, accreditations for foreign media journalists have been revoked by the Iranian Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance.

Abdolreza Tajik, who was awarded the RSF-FNAC press freedom prize in 2010, was given a six-year jail term for his work with the Human Rights Defenders Centre. Several journalists and netizens have recently been summoned by various revolutionary courts or by the Ministry of Information.

On 14 March 2011 the UN secretary-general stated in the quarterly report that he was "deeply troubled by reports of increased executions, detentions, arbitrary arrests, unfair trials and possible torture and ill-treatment of human rights activists, lawyers, journalists and opposition activists". He regretted that no UN human rights investigators had been allowed to visit Iran since 2005.

Reporters Without Borders supports the resolution presented by several countries, including Sweden, Zambia, Macedonia and the United States calling on the United Nations to appoint a special rapporteur to investigate and report on the state of fundamental rights in Iran and demands Tehran's full cooperation.

This resolution provides hope for hundreds of Iranians imprisoned in inhuman conditions and for dozens of others facing the death penalty. The organization calls on all UN Security Council members to vote in favour of this text.

According to his lawyer Mohammad Sharif, Tadjik was given a six-year prison sentence. The journalist was found guilty of "collaborating" with the Human Rights Defenders Centre and of "publishing false information". Jailed on 12 June 2010 for the third time in less than a year, Tadjik was freed on 22 December after his family put up bail for a third time, this time for the sum of 500 million tomans (about 370,000 euros).

Iranian police shut down the centre on the grounds that it did not have an authorization from the Ministry of the Interior "to conduct its activities". This was denied by lawyer and Nobel Peace laureate Shirin Ebadi, the Centre's founder.

On 8 March, Mir Hossein Mousavi, owner of the suspended newspaper Kalameh Sabaz, and his wife, intellectual and successful novelist Zahra Rahnavard were able to meet their children at their home.

In a public letter the couple's children confirmed that they were able to visit their parents under the surveillance of Iranian secret service agents. "The house was full of agents. One of them even insinuated himself into our conversation, as if he was part of the family!" the letter said.

However we still have no news of Mehdi Karoubi, owner of the suspended newspaper Etemad Melli, or his wife Fatemeh Karoubi, editor of suspended magazine Iran dokhte. On 27 February Gholam-Hossein Mohseni Ejei, Tehran's public prosecutor, declared at a press conference that Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karoubi were "under house arrest", "and (that) contact with the outside - telephone, Internet (had been) cut off." He did not say where they were detained or why they had been arrested.

Reporters Without Borders considers that Mousavi and Karoubi, along with their wives, are still being detained. At a prison in Evin, or at home with interrogators from Evin, the result is the same: they are not free. We are concerned for their health. Iran must bring an end to this situation.

The regime in Tehran is continuing to squeeze the media and independent information. A dozen foreign journalists were stripped of their press cards following a demonstration on 15 February that attracted tens of thousands of people in support of the uprising in Egypt.

On 11 March Jay Deshmukh, AFP's bureau chief, was expelled. He is the third journalist from the agency since 2007 forced to leave the country.

Since 12 June 2009 about 20 foreign journalists and correspondents have been expelled from Iran: Yolanda Alvarez, special correspondent for Spanish television channel RTVE; Greek-British journalist Iason Athanasiadis, correspondent for, among others, the Washington Times, who was arrested on 22 June 2009 and expelled after being detained for 15 days; a team from French television channel France 3; and John Leyne, BBC correspondent.

Two Netherlands journalists from the television channel Nederland2 and a Belgian team from RTBF have also been forced to leave. Angeles Espinosa, correspondent for Spanish newspaper EL Pais, was ordered to quit Iran on 24 October 2010.

Several other journalists have been expelled but their organizations prefer not to make the expulsion public in the hope that this will increase their chances of sending a replacement.
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