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Reporters Without Borders Warns Iran to Treat or Release Ailing Journalists

The Paris-based press watchdog Reporters Without Borders is sounding the alarm over the harsh conditions and lack of medical treatment of a number of imprisoned Iranian journalists, warning that their lives could be in danger.

Reporters Without Borders is warning that several Iranian journalists who have been imprisoned arbitrarily for weeks, now, are suffering from serious medical conditions and could die without immediate treatment. The Paris-based press watchdog complains that treatment is being withheld in many cases as an additional form of punishment.

Hundreds of journalists have been arrested in the aftermath of Iran's disputed June 12 presidential election and many have been pressured to remain silent in order to obtain their conditional freedom. Those who have stubbornly refused to comply remain incarcerated for the most part in Tehran's notorious Evin prison.

Reza Moini of Reporters Without Borders says that it is unacceptable that the Islamic Republic treats journalists in this manner and that his organization is holding government officials responsible for the lives of those journalists now being held:

He says that there are journalists that have been imprisoned for a number of months, now, and who are gravely ill. He stresses that many have been deprived of their basic rights, including medical treatment and visits by family members. He calls attention to the cases of Emadoldin Baghi, Badrolssadat Mofidi, Mehdi Mahmudian and Mahommad Sadegh Kabovand who need immediate medical treatment, warning that his organization holds Islamic Republic officials responsible for the treatment and prompt release of these and other ailing journalists.

Iranian opposition websites have reported that Emadoldin Baghi has been subjected to various forms of duress while in detention. They say he has refused to comply with prison interrogator's demands that he recant or issue a mea culpa for his writings, critical of the government.

Ali Nourizadeh of the Center for Arab and Iranian Studies in London explains that prison interrogators use various forms of pressure on journalists to coerce them into behaving as the government would like:

"There are journalists, many of them imprisoned without any kind of direct accusation," said Nourizadeh. "They are interrogated, some of them were released on bail, and the remaining ones are still in prison without knowing what's going to happen to them. [Security forces] arrest the journalist, take him for interrogation, release him on very dear bail, and then, if this journalist crosses the boundaries, writes something or says something [critical], they can bring him back to prison, or threaten him in various ways, [not to mention that] the [bail] money, or the deed to his house or his father's house is still in the hands of the prosecutor. Therefore, it is like a Sword of Damocles [over] their heads. As soon as they move, the sword will come down."

Nourizadeh notes that Iranian prison officials have apparently stopped placing journalists with common criminals or thieves, in the aftermath of a serious prison scandal at Kahrizak prison last summer. That prison was shut down after several deaths and reports of torture, rape and poor sanitary conditions.

Iran has not reacted to the latest charges made by Reporters Without Borders, but Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has repeatedly accused opposition Iranian journalists of "doing the bidding of enemies."