Within a few days after the arrest of the investor and four journalists of Iran’s Shargh daily, the fifth member of the reformist newspaper was detained along with yet another reporter, bringing the total number of journalists arrested in the past week to seven. According to Kalameh website, Reyhaneh Tabatabee, a Shargh reporter, was arrested yesterday at her father’s home while the fate of the five journalists detained earlier last week remained unknown. Last Tuesday coinciding with the commemorations of the Student Day in Iran, Ahmad Gholami (the editor in chief), Farzaneh Roostaee, (the editor of the international section), Keyvan Mehregan (the editor of the political section), and Ali Khodabakhsh (the investor of Shargh daily) were all arrested on site at the editorial office of the daily during a raid by security officers. On Thursday Amir Hadi Anvari, a reporter with the financial section of the daily, was arrested and a few hours later the sixth journalist from Shargh was detained by security agents. A few hours later, Jaras website announced the arrest of yet another journalist from Shargh, its sixth naming him as Mehran Faraji who worked in the metro section of the paper (this last arrest has not till now been confirmed by official sources inside Iran).
Judiciary officials have not yet announced the reason for Mrs.Tabatabaee’s arrest but Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi, the attorney general of Tehran, accused the other four members of Shargh of committing “security crimes”. Among the arrested journalists within the past week only Keyvan Mehregan had a previous arrest record. Mehregan was detained in January last year and was released two months later after posting a one hundred million Tomans bail. He was sentenced to three years of suspended prison. Shargh daily has just begun its fourth publication cycle since last March and had been suspended three times previously in 2003, 2006, and 2007. Just two days before the raid on Shargh’s editorial offices, Emadedin Baghi, a dissident journalist, was ordered to return to prison on the first anniversary of the death of Ayatollah Montazeri. As part of his sentence, he is barred from engaging in any civil, media or political activities.
French based Reporters Without Borders last week condemned the arrests of Iranian journalists. According to its statement, “Concurrent with the start of the nuclear talks, the Islamic Republic of Iran has increased its crackdown on Iranian journalists and online reporter-citizens with five arrests. Obviously, they want to take advantage of these negotiations and the silence of the global community to increase the pressure and censorship on independent media and journalists.”
While the pressure on Iranian journalists and activists has increased significantly during the past month, on Monday November 22nd reformist periodical Chelcheragh was banned purportedly because of publishing material that was deemed “morally offensive” and because of its “persistent violations” in addition to previous warnings issued by the committee for monitoring the press. According to various free speech advocacy organizations, during the past year and in the aftermath of the controversial presidential election, Iranian journalists have come under unprecedented pressures.
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