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Arrests and closures follow release of five journalists in Iran

Iran's Intelligence Minister Heydar Moslehi
Iran's Intelligence Minister Heydar Moslehi

REUTERS/Morteza Nikoubazl

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders firmly condemns today's decision by the Tehran state prosecutor to arrest Mohammad Mehdi Emami Naseri, the managing editor of the daily Maghreb, and Alireza Aghairad, its political editor, and to suspend the monthlies Tajrobeh and Mehrnameh and the weekly Aseman.

The crackdown on freedom of information is clearly continuing, although five of the journalists arrested on 27 January, “Black Sunday,” were released in the past few days on bail of 100 million toman (150,000 euros). They are Pejman Mousavi and Soliman Mohammadi, released on 2 March, and Sasan Aghai, Nasrin Takhayori and Saba Azarpik, released yesterday.

Officials from the Tehran prosecutor's office arrested Naseri and Aghairad at the Maghreb's headquarters. Published since September 2012, the newspaper has been carrying articles defending Iran's reformists. Its surprisingly outspoken tone must have been irritating the regime.

Naseri was previously detained from the start of October until late January, a total of 119 days. At a news conference on the day of his previous arrest, 1 October, prosecutor-general Gholam Hossein Ejehi claimed that his detention was not linked to his work as a journalist.

The suspensions of Tajrobeh, Mehrnameh and Aseman were carried out by Intelligence officials, who contacted staff today and advised them to suspend publication themselves. All three are prestigious newspapers that supported the reformists.

Ali Motahari, a parliamentary representative for Tehran and member of the Commission for Press Authorisation and Surveillance (the censorship arm of the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance), said today that “these suspensions were ordered by the Tehran prosecutor […] the commission knows nothing.”

Today's events come two days after intelligence minister Heydar Moslehi announced an “offensive” by his ministry against “a network of 600 journalists, 150 inside the country and the rest based abroad, who are organizing their [anti-government] activities; some of them work with counter-revolutionary media.”

Mohammad Javad Roh, a Mehrnameh journalist who also works for several reformist newspapers, was arrested at his Tehran home on 2 March and was taken to Evin prison. His family still does not know the reason for his arrest.

Reporters Without Borders calls for the immediate and unconditional release of all the journalists and netizens currently detained in Iran.

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