IRAN - Crackdown on national and foreign press intensifies



    MONTREAL, June 18 /CNW Telbec/ - Reporters Without Borders firmly
condemns the growing crackdown on independent Iranian and foreign journalists
who want to relay what is being said on the streets and to tell the world what
is happening in Tehran and other parts of Iran.
    A total of 10 journalists have been arrested in the five days since the
results of the presidential election were announced.
    "The arrests are growing and we are without news of many journalists,"
Reporters Without Borders said. "The harassment of foreign journalists has
gone too far. The authorities clearly want to get rid of all these unwanted
witnesses. Does the regime really hope to conceal an event of this scale from
the outside world?"
    Around 10 opposition activists, politicians and civil society leaders
have been arrested in Tehran and in the major provincial cities of Tabriz,
Ispahan and Shiraz since 15 June. Reporters Without Borders has been told that
many of those detained have been mistreated.
    Mohamad Atryanfar, the publisher of several newspapers including
Hamshary, Shargh and Shahrvand Emrouz, has been detained since 15 June. He has
reportedly been taken to the security wing of Tehran's Evin prison.
    Although seriously disabled, former Sobh-e-Emrouz editor Saeed Hajjarian
was arrested at his Tehran home on the night of 15 June. A pro-reform daily
founded in June 1997, shortly after Mohamed Khatami's election as president,
Sobh-e-Emrouz exposed the involvement of politicians and intelligence
officials in a series of murders of dissident intellectuals and journalists in
1998. Seen as one of the strategists of the pro-reform movement, Hajjarian was
the victim of a murder attempt in March 2000 that left him badly paralysed.
    Mohammad Ali Abtahi, also known as the "Blogging Mullah," was arrested at
his Tehran home on the morning of 16 June. A vice-president during the Khatami
presidency, he had been acting as an adviser to Mehdi Karoubi, one of the
opposition candidates in last week's presidential election. The news of his
arrest was posted on his blog Webneveshteh (http://www. Webneveshteha.com/).
He is the second well-known blogger to be arrested since the election. The
first was the journalist Somayeh Tohidloo (http://smto.ir), arrested on 14
June.
    Aldolfatah Soltani, a lawyer who represents many imprisoned journalists
and who is a member of the Human Rights Defenders Centre, was arrested on the
orders of the Tehran revolutionary court on 16 June and was reportedly taken
to Evin prison's security wing.
    Saide Lylaz, a business reporter for the newspaper Sarmayeh who has been
very critical of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's policies, was arrested at his
home in Tehran today. His wife said she did not know where he had been taken.
Rohollah Shassavar, a journalist based in the city of Mashad, was also
arrested today.
    Reporters Without Borders learned of the arrests of journalists Somayeh
Tohidloo, Ahmad Zeydabadi, Kivan Samimi Behbani, Abdolreza Tajik and Mahssa
Amrabadi on 14 June. Two other journalists arrested on 14 June, Saeed Shariti
and Hoda Sabaer, have since been released.
    Since 13 June, foreign journalists have been prevented from freely
covering the protests that began after the announcement of Ahmadinejad's
reelection victory. Some, including reporters working for France 3, RAI and
Reuters, have been physically attacked. Others have been arrested and
expelled. They include a Spanish TV crew working for RTVE, a Belgian crew
working for RTBF, German crews working for ARD and ZDF and a Dutch crew
working for Nederland 2.
    Culture and Islamic guidance minister Mohammad Sfar Harandi issued an
order on 16 June forbidding the foreign news media "to attend or cover
demonstrations that have been organised without the interior ministry's
permission."
    "We are unwanted observers," said Reporter Yolanda Alvarez of Spanish
broadcaster RTVE after being expelled with all of her crew on 15 June. "They
want to eliminate every kind of foreign media presence (...) The streets were
totally taken over by anti-riot troops yesterday."
    Today, the Revolutionary Guard's Organised Crime Surveillance Centre
issued a written directive to the editors of websites ordering them to
suppress "content inviting the population to riot and spreading threats and
rumours." It said there had been "several cases of websites and personal blogs
posting articles inciting disturbance of public order and inviting the
population to rebel."
    The directive continued: "These sites, created with the help of American
and Canadian companies, receive the support of media that are protected by the
American and British security services such as the BBC, Radio Farda (Free
Europe) and Radio Zamaneh." It added that the Surveillance Centre would make
important revelations in the coming days about these "destructive" networks.
    The Iranian authorities continue to demonize the foreign media,
especially the western media, accusing them of being "the spokesmen of the
rioters." A foreign ministry press release today referred to them as "enemies"
and warned that they would soon be "checkmated."

    France 24 interview with an Iranian observer:
http://observers.france24.com/en/content/20090617-direct-tehran-despite-crackd
own-information-war-authorities-censorship




For further information:

For further information: Katherine Borlongan, secretary general,
Reporters Without Borders, (514) 521-4111, Cell: (514) 258-4188, Fax: (514)
521-7771, rsfcanada@rsf.org

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