More journalists arrested in Iran; CPJ seeks their release

New York, June 25, 2009–Iranian authorities should release all of the roughly 40 journalists and media workers who have been detained in the aftermath of the country’s disputed June 12 presidential election, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Iranian news organizations identified two more detained journalists in reports today.

Multiple news reports named the two as cartoonist Behzad Bashbo and television producer Khalil Mir-Ashrafi. Ham Mihan, a news Web site, reported that Bashbo and Mir-Ashrafi were arrested last week at the home of Mehamsa Amrabadi, a reporter for the newspaper Etemad e Melli . Amrabadi’s detention had been previously publicized.

Half or more of those detained are from a single newspaper, Kalameh Sabz, the reformist publication owned by presidential candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi. Most of the jailed journalists and media workers are employed by Iranian media organizations, although at least three are working for international media, CPJ research shows. Among them is Iason Athanasiadis, a Greek freelance journalist working for The Washington Times, who was arrested in Tehran on Saturday.

Athanasiadis’ parents, Polymnia Athanasiadi and Georgios Fowden, issued a statement today noting that he is a dedicated, unbiased reporter. “Iason has always maintained his integrity as an independent journalist who sells articles, photographs and film to outlets in many parts of the world,” the statement said. “His work serves no purpose other than the fair and humane coverage of life in the many countries where he has worked. He has a particular love of Iran, and a deep respect for its cultural and religious traditions.”

Demonstrations by supporters of defeated candidates have taken place throughout Iran following the announcement of the results of the June 12 election which gave a landslide victory to President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad. Since then, foreign journalists have been banned from leaving their offices or have been expelled, local newspapers have been censored, and Internet and telecommunication services have been disrupted, CPJ research shows.