Reuters: Iran’s judiciary accused three detained Iranian journalists on Wednesday of publishing “lies” about the ruling system in the Islamic Republic. TEHRAN (Reuters) – Iran’s judiciary accused three detained Iranian journalists on Wednesday of publishing “lies” about the ruling system in the Islamic Republic.
Soheil Assefi was detained on August 4, following the detention of Masoud Bastani and Farshad Gorbanpour on July 31, Paris-based media rights group Reporters Without Borders said last week.
In what was believed to be the judiciary’s first public comment on the cases, judiciary spokesman Alireza Jamshidi said Assefi was under investigation, and bail of 1.5 billion rials ($162,000) had been set for Gorbanpour but suggested it might be lowered.
“Their offence is publishing false statements and lies against the system as well as giving news and information to foreign (Internet) sites who have published these lies,” Jamshidi told reporters.
A judiciary source, who asked not to be named, said Bastani had been released but said he could be called in for further questioning.
Reporters Without Borders has called on Tehran to release the reporters and criticized the country for creating “the Middle East’s biggest prison for the press”.
In last week’s statement, the rights group said the latest detentions brought to 11 the number of journalists and “cyber-dissidents” held and called on Iran “to stop hounding journalists by bringing trumped-up charges against them.”
It earlier said the detained journalists were working for or had contributed to news Web site roozonline.com, as well as other publications.
Rights groups and diplomats say Iran has launched a broad crackdown on dissenting voices in the country, which is under growing Western pressure over its disputed nuclear program.
Iran says it allows free speech, but journalists say they have to tread carefully to avoid closure.
On August 6, the Sharq (East) newspaper was closed three months after it reappeared on newsstands following a ban, its director said, the second publication critical of the government to be shut since July.
Since 2000, Iran has closed more than 100 publications, accusing many of being “pawns of the West”. Many subsequently reopened under different names.