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RSF calls on regime to end repression, free all detained journalists and bloggers

(RSF/IFEX) - 6 September 2011 - Despite some conciliatory gestures, the Iranian authorities continue to crack down on the media and journalists, closing the weekly Shahrvand Emrouz and the daily Roozegar yesterday. Reporters Without Borders condemns the suppression of free speech and peaceful demonstrations in the northwestern cities of Urmia and Tabriz and the arrests of netizens and journalists.

The Commission for Press Licensing and Surveillance, the censorship arm of the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, ordered Shahrvand Emrouz's closure for "insulting the country's leaders" and because, according to the commission, it was only permitted to cover cultural and social issues.

Launched in March 2007 by Mohamad Atrianfar and previously suspended in November 2008, Shahrvand Emrouz had resumed publishing in July with new staff.

Roozegar, which had resumed publishing in February 2010 after being banned in 2007, was banned again today on the orders of prosecutors for "anti-government propaganda" and "covering confidential matters."

The demonstrations in the cities of Urmia and Tabriz and other cities in the northwestern province of Azerbaijan began two weeks ago in response to parliament's refusal to examine a bill for the protection of Lake Urmia, a slowly-disappearing lake that is classified as a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO. The police and Revolutionary Guards have been using violence to disperse the protests although they have been peaceful.

Around 100 people have been arrested including netizens and journalists. Rahim Gholami, who writes for several local newspapers, was arrested along with a number of activists in Ardabil on 30 August for taking part in one of the protests. Gholami has been arrested several times in the past. Sentenced to a year in prison by an Ardabil court on a charge of anti-government propaganda, he was last released on 15 October 2010.

Faranak Farid, a writer and translator who contributes to the Feminist School website, was arrested on 3 September in Tabriz. No official reason was given for her arrest.

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