Iran General NewsIran Jails More Journalists and Blocks Web Sites

Iran Jails More Journalists and Blocks Web Sites

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New York Times: Iran has continued its crackdown on journalists, with two arrests in the past week, and has moved against pro-democracy Web sites, blocking hundreds of sites in recent months and making several arrests. Mahboubeh Abbas-Gholizadeh, the editor of the magazine Farzaneh and an advocate of expanded rights for women, was arrested Nov. 1 after she returned from London, where she had attended the European Social Forum. New York Times

By NAZILA FATHI

TEHRAN – Iran has continued its crackdown on journalists, with two arrests in the past week, and has moved against pro-democracy Web sites, blocking hundreds of sites in recent months and making several arrests.

Mahboubeh Abbas-Gholizadeh, the editor of the magazine Farzaneh and an advocate of expanded rights for women, was arrested Nov. 1 after she returned from London, where she had attended the European Social Forum.

Fereshteh Ghazi, a journalist for the daily newspaper Etemad, who also writes about women’s issues, was arrested four days earlier after she was summoned to court to answer questions, said her husband, Ahmad Begloo.

Ms. Ghazi wrote a letter in support of a woman who had been sentenced to death for killing a senior security official whom the woman accused of trying to rape her.

As part of its crackdown, the government has blocked hundreds of political sites and Web logs. Three major pro-democracy Web sites that support President Mohammad Khatami were blocked in August.

A university in Orumieh in northwestern Iran shut down its Internet lab, contending that students had repeatedly browsed on indecent Web sites.

The crackdown suggests that hard-liners are determined to curtail freedom in cyberspace. Many rights advocates had turned to the Internet after the judiciary shut down more than 100 pro-democracy newspapers and journals in recent years.

The number of Internet users in Iran has soared in the last four years, to 4.8 million from 250,000. As many as 100,000 Web logs operate, and some of them are political.

The move to block Web sites has the support of a senior cleric, Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi, who declared in September in the hard-line daily newspaper Kayhan that Web sites should be blocked if they “insult sacred concepts of Islam, the Prophet and Imams,” or “publish harmful and deviated beliefs to promote atheism or promote sinister books.”

When the most recent wave of arrests began in September, authorities arrested the father of one Web technician, Sina Motallebi, who has taken refuge in the Netherlands. Mr. Motallebi had his own Web log and helped run one of the political Web sites. The father, Saeed Motalebi, was held for 11 days and then released.

“It seems that they do not want to deal with political figures who are behind the Internet sites and are willing to pay a price for what they are doing,” said Alireza Alavitabar, a political scientist who is involved in the Emooz Web site.

“Instead they want to deprive the Web sites of their staff and the capability to run them,” he said.

Hanif Mazroui, the son of a former member of Parliament, Rajabali Mazroui, was arrested two months ago. He was a computer technician who worked for the daily Vaghayeh Etefaghieh, which was shut down. He has had no job since then.

Omid Memarian, who was arrested Oct. 10, was a journalist and a well-known figure among private aid groups. He had his own Web log in both Persian and English.

Mr. Memarian tried to attend a conference on Iranian civil society in New York before his arrest. He had obtained a visa, but in Frankfurt, American authorities refused to allow him to board his flight, saying that he was on a “no-fly” list, Human Rights Watch reported. He was arrested a few days after his return to Tehran.

“They want to find out how the Web sites are run, intimidate these young people and put an end to this medium,” said Rajabali Mazroui, Hanif Mazroui’s father.

The judiciary is drafting a law that will define cybercrimes. The chief of the judiciary, Ayatollah Mahmoud Shahroudi, has said the law will define the punishment for “anyone who disseminates information aimed at disturbing the public mind through computer systems.”

It is not clear where the arrested journalists and technicians are being held. People who have spoken to their families have not said what the charges against them are.

However, the judiciary spokesman, Jamal Karimirad, said last month that they would be tried on charges of “acting against national security, disturbing the public mind and insulting sanctities.”

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