Iran Human RightsIran is still holding 35 journalists after crackdown, human...

Iran is still holding 35 journalists after crackdown, human rights group says

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ImageThe Times: At least 35 journalists remain imprisoned in Iran, with some facing the death penalty, after the Government’s media crackdown since the disputed presidential election last year. The Times

Hugh Tomlinson

ImageAt least 35 journalists remain imprisoned in Iran, with some facing the death penalty, after the Government’s media crackdown since the disputed presidential election last year.

The latest figures from the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), a New York-based human rights group, show that Tehran is continuing to stamp out perceived opposition in the local media.

The campaign against journalists has now run almost a year, since President Ahmadinejad’s election victory last June, which the Opposition claims was achieved through vote-rigging.

Those in prison include editors, reporters, photographers, bloggers and even a writer for a children’s magazine. Some are charged with endangering national security and issuing propaganda against the State, offences that carry the death penalty.

The CPJ says that by last month at least 52 journalists were known to be in custody across Iran, a third of the total held worldwide. The committee believes that 17 have been released in the past month but can be recalled to prison at any time.

Those behind bars are under pressure to confess to their alleged crimes. Many have been denied legal counsel and family visits. Others have been held without charge for months.

“Not only is the scope of journalist detentions in Iran regrettable, so too is the appalling treatment these journalists have been subjected to,” says Joel Simon, executive director of the CPJ. “People all over the world hold the Iranian Government responsible for any harm that might befall these journalists while in custody for simply doing their jobs.”

Iran is now the country with the world’s worst record for jailing journalists. China, second on the CPJ list, held 24 journalists until December last year, and the committee’s research suggests that this figure remains unchanged.

Iranian news outlets not affiliated to the Government remain subject to censorship and surveillance. Raids on offices are common.

Thousands of opposition supporters have also been arrested, with many beaten and tortured. More than 80 people have been jailed for up to 15 years for their role in organising protests and at least two have been executed.

The award-winning Iranian film-maker Jafar Panahi was arrested last month in a raid on his house in Tehran. The vocal supporter of Mir Hossein Mousavi, the opposition candidate, is in solitary confinement. He is accused of planning to make a film undermining the Government.

His wife, Tahereh Saeedi, released a statement this week after visiting him in jail, saying that his condition had deteriorated. “He has been deprived [of] his elementary legal rights. Can this be called anything but torture? Does a regime have the right to behave so shamelessly and inhumanely toward one of its art icons, for the crime of an unmade film?” she said.

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