Group says Iran a prison for journalists

June 22, 2009 at 4:25 PM
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TEHRAN, June 22 (UPI) -- A press freedom group ranks Iran next to China as the world's biggest prison for journalists as a post-election crackdown on media continued in Iran.

Since Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's endorsement of the result of the presidential election, and the opposition's decision to call another demonstration Saturday, at least 33 journalists and cyber-dissidents have been jailed, Reporters Without Borders reported Monday on its Web site. Journalists who could not be located at their homes have been summoned by telephone by Tehran's prosecutor general.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was declared the landslide winner over his nearest challenger, Mir Hossein Mousavi. Since the elections, protests have turned violent. Iranian news sources reported 13 people were killed Saturday. CNN reported hospital sources put the number dead at 19 while other unconfirmed sources indicated the toll was higher.

"The force of the demonstrations in Tehran is increasing fears that more Iranian journalists could be arrested and more foreign journalists could be expelled," Reporters Without Borders said. "The regime has been visibly shaken by its own population and does not want to let this perception endure. That is why the media have become a priority target."

The international organization during the weekend asked the European Union's 27 member countries not to recognize Ahmadinejad's re-election.

"If President Ahmadinejad does not agree to respect press freedom, he must be made to see reason," the letter from Reporters Without Borders to the member nations read. "A clear and unequivocal rejection of the election results by European leaders could force Ahmadinejad to yield. The nuclear stakes in Iran must not serve as a pretext for saying nothing. This is not the time for timid or cautious statements."

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