IFJ condemns wave of journalists' arrests in Iran

The International Federation of Journalists has condemned the arrests of journalists and media union leaders following the civil unrest in Iran in recent day.

At least 12 journalists were arrested during clashed between protesters and security forces last week, the IFJ claimed, including Badralsadat Mofidi and Mashaalah Shamsolvaezin, respectively general secretary and vice president of the Association of Iranian Journalists, an affiliate organisation of the IFJ.

The detention of the local journalists comes amidst reports that Iranian authorities have banned contact with a number of thinktanks, universities and international broadcasting organisations, including the BBC, which the intelligence ministry accused of campaigning for the end of Iran's Islamic system.

Earlier this week, Maziar Bahari, a journalist working for Channel 4 News, revealed how he was threatened with execution and tortured during his 118-day imprisonment in Iran.

According to the IFJ, Shamsolvaezin was arrested at his home on 28 December by plain clothes officers as part of arrests of prominent independent journalists.

Mofidi was detained on the same day along with her husband Kayvan Mehregan, editor of the political section of the reformist daily Etemad.

"We condemn the Iranian Government's knee-jerk reaction of blaming the media over legitimate public protest," said Aidan White, IFJ general secretary. "There is systematic repression and brutal intimidation of media and journalists under the cloak of restoring public order."

The IFJ described as "absurd" the seven year jail term handed down to Bahman Ahmadi Amoui, an Iranian journalist critical of President Ahmedinajad's rule.

"The international community of journalists will stand by their colleagues in Iran" added White.

"The government will not restore order or end this crisis without respect for the rights of people to protest and of journalists to tell the story. There must be an end to the reign of terror that is being unleashed against free speech and journalism in Iran."

Iran has been in a running battle with the media since last year's disputed presidential election.

In a two week period in June more than 40 local journalists were arrested by the Iranian authorities as pressure on those reporting the ongoing protests against Ahmedinajad's re-election intensified.

Those arrests included the entire staff of Kalemeh Sabz, a newspaper owned by presidential candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi.

In the same month, the Iranian foreign ministry accused the BBC and Voice of America of being mouthpieces of their respective governments and seeking to engineer the ongoing riots that followed the election.

The BBC's correspondent in Iran, Jon Leyne, was also expelled as the corporation accused Iran of attempting to block broadcast of the corporation's Persian TV channel in the Middle East.

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