Iran has arrested a dozen journalists accused of cooperating with foreign Persian-language media organizations, in what appears to be a coordinated crackdown on the press.
Iranian media said on Monday the detained journalists worked for six different news organizations, including five daily or weekly newspapers and the semi-official ILNA news agency.
The reports say the journalists allegedly have links to "anti-revolutionary" media, a term Tehran frequently uses to suggest cooperation with overseas media groups.
But Iran’s minister of culture has said that the charges are not related to media activities. Some of the journalists who were jailed attended a meeting with former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a leading opposition figure, a day before their arrest.
Iran has strict regulations for journalists working in the country, cracking down on those who work with media deemed by Tehran as dangerous or unfriendly.
Iran has repeatedly denounced as hostile the Persian services of various international media, including Voice of America and the BBC.
The Broadcasting Board of Governors, the independent agency which oversees VOA, issued a statement condemning what it called "the pattern of threats to the media in Iran," including harassment of family members, censorship of the Internet and incidents of radio and television signal jamming.
The Committee to Protect Journalists ranks Iran, together with Turkey and China, as among the world's worst jailers of members of the press.
Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.