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More arrests of journalists and intellectuals, families threatened

(RSF/IFEX) - 6 October 2011 - Two journalists, Mehdi Afsharnik of the newspaper Etemad Melli and Ali Akrami, who works for several newspapers, were arrested at their home yesterday by police who carried out a search and confiscated personal effects. A third journalist, Mohammad Hidari, was arrested at his work place. The reasons for their arrests and where they are being held are not yet known.

At the same time, several other journalists have been summoned and interrogated by intelligence ministry officials in recent days.

Amid allegations of corruption and reeling from the international economic downturn, the Islamic Republic has been resorting to all possible means to silence its critics – censoring newspapers, controlling online content, arresting journalists and in some cases threatening their relatives.

Peter Horrocks, the head of global news at the BBC, reported yesterday that relatives and friends of around 10 Iranians who work in London for BBC Persian Television had been harassed by the Iranian authorities following the broadcast of a documentary about the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Horrocks said the friends and relatives were summoned for questioning, passports were confiscated and some were banned from leaving the country.

This is not the first time that the regime has threatened the families of exile journalists or used this kind of intimidation as a form of blackmail in an attempt to manipulate media.

Reporters Without Borders knows of more than 50 cases of threats, arrests and harassment of families of journalists in Iran. In an unprecedented exodus, more than 250 journalists and bloggers have fled the country since the disputed presidential election of June 2009. The families of most of the journalists working for independent media abroad have been threatened by the regime's various intelligence services.
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