Iran 'world's biggest prison for journalists': RSF

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Jun 22 2009 09:07 AM | Updated as of Jun 23 2009 01:43 AM

PARIS - With 33 Iranian journalists and bloggers in jail, Iran ranks alongside China as the world's biggest prison for journalists, the press rights group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said Sunday.

The Paris-based organization voiced alarm after several high-profile journalists were arrested including Jila Baniyaghoob and her husband Bahaman Ahamadi Amoee, who were taken from their Tehran home on Saturday.

Baniyaghoob, winner of the Courage in Journalism prize awarded by the US-based International Women's Media Foundation, ran a news website focusing on women's issues and her husband Amoee wrote for various pro-reform publications.

The couple was arrested by "intelligence ministry officials in plain clothes who searched their home and then took them away to an as-yet unknown location, probably the security wing of Tehran's Evin prison," said RSF in a statement.

Also arrested on Saturday was Ali Mazroui, head of the Association of Iranian journalists, it added.

RSF also said that Mohammad Ghochani, editor of Etemad Meli, a newspaper owned by an opposition candidate, was arrested on Thursday and blogger and human rights activist Shiva Nazar Ahara was taken from her Tehran home last Sunday.

"The Islamic republic of Iran now ranks alongside China as the world's biggest prison for journalists," said RSF.

"Iran now has a total of 33 journalists and cyber-dissidents in its jails, while journalists who could not be located at their homes have been summoned by telephone by Tehran prosecutor general Said Mortazavi," it added.

The press freedom watchdog said that jailed journalists were under pressure to make filmed confessions and that there were allegations of torture.

"The regime has been visibly shaken by its own population and does not want to let this perception endure. That is why the media have become a priority target," said RSF.

The organization called on the international community to speak out against the media crackdown in Iran following the disputed June 12 presidential election.