At least 13 jailed as crackdown enters second week

New York, June 22, 2009–The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on Iranian authorities to release all journalists detained in the aftermath of the disputed presidential election and to lift the onerous press restrictions that are choking information at a time when the country and the world most need it. At least 13 journalists detained during a week of protests were still in government custody as of late today, including veteran Newsweek correspondent Maziar Bahari, according to CPJ research. 

The massive media crackdown continued into its second week, according to numerous sources. Many journalists have gone into hiding in anticipation of arrest, colleagues said. Authorities instructed the BBC’s bureau chief to leave the country. The signals of the BBC and U.S.-government backed radio and televisions stations remained jammed. The government shut the Tehran offices of a major Arab satellite station indefinitely, the station said. Newspaper censorship is widespread, an Iranian journalism group said.

“Tehran should immediately and unconditionally release all of the detained journalists and bring to an end the many unreasonable and arbitrary measures that are restricting the flow of information,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Mohamed Abdel Dayem. “Detaining journalists for reporting news and commentary indicates the government has something to hide.”

On Sunday, Iranian officials asked Jon Leyne, the BBC’s Tehran bureau chief, to leave the country within 24 hours, the BBC reported. Throughout last week, the BBC’s Persian radio and television services were disrupted as the result of electronic jamming that was traced back to Iran, the BBC said. Since then the network has increased the number of satellites that carry its Persian services.

The signals of other radio stations such as the U.S. government-backed Farsi-language Radio Farda and the Farsi service of the Washington-based Voice of America have also been jammed in Iran, according to international news reports.

The Dubai-based satellite channel Al-Arabiya reported that authorities ordered its Tehran bureau to remain closed indefinitely after it was initially shut down for a week on June 13, Al-Arabiya reported. Nabil al-Khatib, executive news manager for the channel, said that Iranian authorities accused the channel of reporting “news that is not necessarily fair from their point of view.”

The Association of Iranian Journalists said in a statement today that security agents are visiting printing houses to censor newspapers. The BBC Persian service reports that 180 Iranian journalists expressed their concern in a petition about increased pressure on journalists by the authorities. “[Censorship] has been unprecedented. Even during wartime there was not this much pressure on publications,” the BBC quoted the petition as saying.

Here are the journalists whose arrests CPJ has verified:

On Sunday, security agents arrested Newsweek‘s Tehran correspondent, Maziar Bahari, the magazine reported. The officers, who did not identify themselves, took Bahari’s laptop and several videotapes, the newsweekly reported. “At this point, we are unaware of the charges against Maziar Bahari and we do not yet know why he is being detained,” Newsweek said in a statement today. “We respectfully ask that he be afforded all the rights he’s entitled to under Iranian law and that the case is resolved quickly.”

Muhammad Ghouchani, editor-in-chief of Etemad e Melli , the newspaper owned by defeated presidential candidate Mehdi Karroubi, was arrested on Saturday by Ettelaat intelligence agents, the BBC Persian service reported. Mehamsa Amrabadi, a reporter for the same newspaper, was arrested on June 15, her mother, Maryam Naqi, told the BBC Persian service. Naqi told the BBC that the Ministry of Justice informed her on June 18 that her daughter was being held at Evin Prison.

On Saturday night, security forces in Tehran arrested husband-and-wife journalists Zhila Bani-Yaghoub and Bahman Ahmadi Omavi, Radio Farda reported. Bani-Yaghoub is the editor-in-chief of the Iranian Women’s Club, a women rights Web site

Issa Saharkhiz, a freelance journalist and political activist, was arrested on Saturday in his office, according to local news reports. Saharkhiz was director-general of publications at the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance during Mohammad Khatami’s presidency.

Rajab-Ali Mazroui, director of the Association of Iranian Journalists, was arrested on Saturday, according to multiple local news reports. The details of his arrest remain unknown at this time.

Sumaia Tawhidlu, who blogs at Sahel e Salamat and is a supporter of the defeated reformist candidate, Mir-Hossein Mousavi, was arrested last week, according to local news reports. The precise date of her arrest is unknown.

Shiwa Nazar-Ahari, a blogger and a member of the Committee of Human Rights Reporters, a local watchdog group, was arrested by Ettelaat intelligence agents in her Tehran office on June 14, the committee reported.

Kayvan Samimi , manager of the now defunct monthly magazine Nama, was arrested on June 14, according to multiple online articles.

In addition, CPJ documented three other arrests last week. Before last week’s crackdown, at least six journalists were jailed in Iran.

There may be other journalists in detention; the government has provided virtually no official information on the arrests and has taken extreme measures to curb the flow of information within the country. Since announcing the results of the now-disputed presidential elections on June 13, Iranian authorities have arrested hundreds of high-profile supporters of the three defeated presidential candidates.