IRAN - 24 Internet cafés closed and 23 arrests as government steps up online crackdown

    Hosseinkhah begins her second month in prison today. Support Reporters
    Without Borders' calls for her release by signing this petition:

    MONTREAL, Dec. 17 /CNW Telbec/ - Reporters Without Borders condemns the
closure of 24 Internet cafés in the course of a police operation in Tehran on
16 December in which 23 people, including 11 women, were arrested for "immoral
    "This is further evidence of an even more radical government line on free
expression, especially when women are involved," the press freedom
organisation said. "The grounds for arresting these women were extremely
vague. They did nothing to threaten public morality. We firmly condemn this
attack on freedoms, and we call for the release of all 23 detainees and the
reopening of the Internet cafés."
    The Tehran police said a total of 170 cafés and Internet cafés were
warned on 15 December that they were risking the possibility of closure.
    The raids coincide with a reinforcement of the official campaign launched
in April against women violating the Islamic dress code. They are being
advised not to wear "western-style" dress such as tight trousers or high
boots, regarded as "inappropriate attire." Since Mahmoud Ahmadinejad became
president in 2005, everyone's physical appearance is supposed to respect
    Cyber-feminists Maryam Hosseinkhah and Jelveh Javaheri are meanwhile
still being held in Evin prison in the northern outskirts of Tehran.
Hosseinkhah, 32, a journalist who writes for the websites Zanestan and
WeChange, has been held since 18 November. Javaheri, 30, was arrested on      
  1 December.
    After charging them with publishing false information, disturbing public
opinion and "publicity against the Islamic Republic," the authorities have
demanded very large amounts of bail (95,000 euros for Hosseinkhah and
50,000 euros for Javaheri) to release them.
    Iran is one of the strictest countries in the world as regards online
filtering and censorship. For the past year, all websites that offer news
about Iran have been required to register with the culture ministry. According
to the council of ministers, insulting Islam or other monotheistic religions,
spreading separatist ideologies, publishing false news or publishing news that
invades privacy are all grounds for declaring a website illegal.

For further information:

For further information: mily Jacquard, secretary general, Reporters
Without Borders, (514) 521-4111, Cell: (514) 258-4208, Fax: (514) 521-7771,

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