Reporters Without Borders condemned a renewed crackdown on the online press after the 10 October arrest of Omid Memarian on the orders of the 9th chamber of the Tehran prosecutor's office, for posting articles on several reformist sites. Three more journalists are already in custody for the same reasons.
"In a country where the independent press has to fight for its survival on a daily basis, online publications and weblogs are the last media to fall into the authorities' clutches. With eight months to go before the presidential elections, the Iranian authorities are now trying to spread terror among online journalists," the organisation said.
Omid Memarian, Shahram Rafihzadeh, Hanif Mazroi and Rozbeh Mir Ebrahimi are accused of "propaganda against the regime, threatening national security and incitement to rebellion and insulting leading figures in the regime."
Spokesman for the Iranian Justice Ministry, Jamal Karamirad, has said the journalists will shortly go on trial in Tehran. Their families have not been allowed to see them since their arrests and they have been denied legal representation.
All four were referred to in an article in the conservative daily Kayhan, attacking support from certain foreign governments for a "network of webloggers seeking to overthrow the regime".
Former reformist deputy, Mohssen Armin, said that around 20 people, not just journalists, had been arrested in a "crackdown against Internet use".
Shahram Rafihzadeh, head of the cultural section of the reformist daily newspaper Etemad (Confidence), was arrested on 7 September 2004, apparently by the morals police, a Tehran police department that is linked to the intelligence services.
Hanif Mazroi, former journalist on several reformist publications, was arrested after responding to a summons from the 9th chamber of the Tehran prosecutor's office on 8 September.
Rozbeh Mir Ebrahimi, former political editor of Etemad was arrested at his home in Tehran on 27 September 2004.
Babak Ghafori Azar, arrested on 7 September 2004 suspected of contributing to reformist news sites, was released on 21 September.
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