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Ahead of elections, Iran cracks down on journalists

Reformist newspaper Shargh published an empty space where arrested journalist Porya Alami's column would usually have appeared in protest against the recent wave of arrests
Reformist newspaper Shargh published an empty space where arrested journalist Porya Alami's column would usually have appeared in protest against the recent wave of arrests

Shargh's January 30 issue

UPDATE: Thirteen journalists still held in "Black Sunday" crackdown, others summoned (RSF, 29 January 2013)

(RSF/IFEX) - 28 January 2013 - In a renewed crackdown on the news media in Tehran, plain-clothes intelligence ministry officials yesterday searched the headquarters of four daily newspapers – Etemad, Arman, Shargh and Bahar – and the weekly Aseman and, without giving any explanation, arrested at least 10 journalists.

Two other journalists were arrested the day before. Arrest warrants have been issued for other journalists.

“The constant persecution of journalists keeps on intensifying by the day,” Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “Iran has not yet emerged from the era of terror launched after the disputed June 2009 presidential election and now, five months before the next election in June 2013, a clear warning is being given – journalists and news media will be gagged.”

Reporters Without Borders calls for the immediate and unconditional release of all journalists currently detained in Iran. The authorities must put an end to these repeated waves of arrests, which have the sole aim of ensuring the regime's stability and survival. Such intimidation attempts are doomed to fail.

According to the information obtained by Reporters Without Borders, at least 12 journalists were arrested during the weekend. The ten arrested yesterday were Sasan Aghai, Nasrin Takhayori, Javad Daliri and Emily Amrai of Etemad; Motahreh Shafie, Nargus Jodaki and Saba Azarpik of Arman; Porya Alami and Pejman Mousavi of Shargh; and Akbar Montajabi of Aseman.

The two journalists arrested the day before were Milad Fadai Asl of the news agency ILNA and Soliman Mohammadi of Bahar. Both were arrested at their place of work. All 12 were transferred to unknown detention centres after searches of their homes and confiscation of personal effects.

Other journalists have been sent summonses to present themselves to revolutionary courts during the days to come.

Since the start of January, a number of journalists have been summoned for questioning by Revolutionary Guards or intelligence ministry officials. During these interrogations, they have been questioned above all about the next presidential election and the candidate or candidates they intend to support.

They were also asked for their opinion on Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei's latest speech, on 28 December, in which he berated government opponents. “Stop saying we must organize free elections,” he said. “Since the start of the Islamic Republic, the elections have always been free.”

Prosecutor-general Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejehi said threateningly during a news conference on 21 January: “Reliable information has reached me that certain journalists in Iran are collaborating with westerners and counter-revolutionaries based abroad.”

What other IFEX members are saying
  • Iran arrests journalists in largest crackdown since 2009

    The semi-official Fars News Agency reported that the journalists were arrested for cooperating with "anti-revolutionary media." The mass arrests follow a statement made to reporters by Gholamhossein Moseni Ejei, Iran's prosecutor general and the spokesman for the judiciary, who said that "several journalists have their hands in the hands of Westerners and anti-revolutionaries." Ejei also said that no one should complain if those individuals were arrested for criminal acts because they were the "mouthpiece and podium of the enemy," Fars reported.

  • Iran: Free journalists swept up in raids

    “Authorities are trying to scare journalists into silence as we head into June’s presidential elections,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Iranian prosecutors have not explained why a journalist’s connections to foreign media or opposition political forces would be a crime.”

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