Tue, Nov 09, 2004 - Page 6 News List

Tehran steps up arrests of journalists

CRACKDOWN Journalists who write about women's issues have been arrested, while increasing numbers of political Web sites and blogs are being blocked

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , TEHRAN

Iran has continued its crackdown on journalists, with two arrests in the past week, and has moved against pro-democracy Web sites, blocking hundreds of sites in recent months and making several arrests.

Mahboubeh Abbas-Gholizadeh, the editor of the magazine Farzaneh and an advocate of expanded rights for women, was arrested Nov. 1 after she returned from London, where she had attended the European Social Forum.

Fereshteh Ghazi, a journalist for the daily newspaper Etemad, who also writes about women's issues, was arrested four days earlier after she was summoned to court to answer questions, her husband, Ahmad Begloo, said.

Ghazi is an outspoken journalist who wrote a letter in support of a woman who had been sentenced to death for killing a security official she accused of trying to rape her.

The government has blocked hundreds of political sites and Web logs. Three major pro-democracy Web sites that support President Mohammad Khatami were blocked in August. And a university in Orumieh shut down its Internet lab, contending that students had repeatedly browsed on indecent Web sites.

The crackdown suggests that hard-liners are determined to curtail freedom in cyberspace. Many rights advocates had turned to the Internet after the judiciary shut down pro-democracy newspapers and journals in recent years.

The number of Internet users in Iran has soared in the past four years, to 4.8 million from 250,000. As many as 100,000 Web logs operate, some of which are political.

The move to block Web sites has the support of a senior cleric, Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi, who declared in September in the hard-line daily newspaper Kayhan that Web sites that "insult sacred concepts of Islam, Prophet and Imams, publish harmful and deviated beliefs to promote atheism or promote sinister books," should be blocked.

When the most recent wave of arrests began in September, authorities detained the father of one Web technician, Sina Motallebi, who has taken refuge in the Netherlands, for 11 days. Motallebi wrote a Web log and helped run one of the political Web sites.

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