In Iran, more journalists arrested and freed

New York, July 31, 2009–Iran‘s official news agency claimed that a prominent filmmaker arrested Thursday has been released, but there is no independent confirmation. Two other documentarians detained at the same time remain in custody, according to international news reports.

The Iranian News Agency (IRNA) reported Thursday that Jafar Panahi was released immediately after he was arrested because of an unspecified “misunderstanding.”

The three filmmakers were detained Thursday when thousands of people gathered to commemorate the killing of a protester shot in the aftermath of the disputed June 12 elections, according to international news reports. Police arrested filmmakers Panahi, Mahnaz Mohammadi, and Rookhsare Ghaemghami during a gathering in Tehran’s Behesht-e-Zahra cemetery to commemorate the killing of Neda Agha-Soltan, who was shot during a protest on June 20.

“We are discouraged by the limited information coming out of Iran, especially with the possibility that several journalists may be brought to trial on Saturday,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon.

Photographers Majid Saeedi and Satyar Emami, among others, may face trial in upcoming days.

Meanwhile, CPJ has confirmed that three journalists have been released. Muhammad-Reza Yazdanpana, a freelance journalist and blogger, was released on Saturday after spending 18 days in prison, according Parleman News, a local Web site. Tohid Begi, a photographer with the online newspaper Mashrota, which is affiliated with the presidential candidate Mehdi Karroubi, was freed on bail July 22 after 11 days in prison, according to local news reports. Mujtaba Tehrani, a journalist with Itmad Milli, which is also affiliated with Karroubi, was let go on bail on July 22. He was arrested on June 27, according to CPJ research.

With 39 journalists behind bars, Iran remains the world’s leading jailer of journalists. At least 33 were arrested in the aftermath of the elections, and six have been in jail since before the June 12 elections.