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Human Rights, Press Watchdogs Denounce Iran's Arrest of Journalists

Human-rights groups, press watchdogs and Iranian opposition websites are denouncing the imprisonment of dozens of journalists, teachers, professors, and opposition activists.. Edward Yeranian reports for VOA from Cairo:

Rights watchdog Reporters Without Borders is slamming Iran for its arbitrary arrest and detention of journalists to mark World Press Freedom Day. Human-rights groups have also come out against arbitrary arrests of Iranian educators, students and opposition activists.

Reporters Without Borders' Reza Moini in Paris paints a bleak picture of press freedom inside Iran since the disputed re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad last year:

He says that one is free only to speak out in favor of Mr. Ahmadinejad and to recount only what he is saying, but many journalists are criticizing the Iranian president today, even those who belong to his own conservative camp. He says the military is ruling the country, and they do whatever they please with journalists, including more arrests and more repression.

Amnesty International reported last week that around 70 Iranian journalists and bloggers were being held in Iranian prisons. But Moini says that figure might be somewhat lower after a number of journalists were released on bail, recently.

He says he thinks there are around 35 journalists in Iranian prisons, although 120 have been jailed during the past year. He estimates 60 more journalists have been forced to flee their country due to repression.

In a speech last week to mark "National Persian Gulf Day", President Ahmadinejad said Iran defends "freedom of religion, freedom of expression, freedom of information, and freedom of ideas."

But dozens of Iranian newspapers and periodicals have been shut down, the internet has been systematically censored, and the Association of Iranian Journalists has been shuttered during Mr. Ahmadinejad's tenure as Iranian president.

Meanwhile, opposition website Rah-e-Sabz is reporting assailants stabbed professor and former reformist minister Ahmad Motamedi inside his university office early Monday. Many opposition activists, educators and journalists say the government's paramilitary Basiji group has threatened to harm them in recent months for supporting the opposition.

Iran's Human Rights Activist's News Agency is reporting 11 Iranian educators were arrested Saturday and Sunday, despite the celebration of "National Teacher's Day." The agency noted eight other teachers were arrested last week.

Freelance journalist Aida Saadat told Amnesty International that she was forced to flee Iran after being beaten up while returning home one night. Her assailants, she said, told her, "This is just a warning. Next time we will kill you for your activities against our people and our country."

A number of opposition supporters have also been sentenced to death under the vague charge of being "mohareb" or "enemies of God."

Two young men, Mohammed Reza Ali Zamani and Arash Rahmanipour were hanged in January under that charge.

At least six others, including Jafar Kazemi, Mohammed Ali Haj Aghaee, Mohsen Daneshvar, Ali Saremi, Ahmad Daneshvar and Motahareh Bahrami have also been sentenced recently as "mohareb," and are awaiting execution.