Stop Fundamentalism – Iranian security forces stormed the offices of a number of newspapers in Tehran Sunday arresting over ten journalists and reporters, reported various Iranian news media today.
Based on these reports offices of Arman, Bahar, Sharq, Etemad newspapers and Asman weekly were targeted by security agents.
A day earlier a reporter from ILNA news agency had been arrested.
Cooperation with “Persian anti-Revolution media” has been explained to be the reason behind the arrests, reported Mehr state-run news agency today. But Fars news agency, affiliated with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, explained that the reporters were being trained by Persian section of BBC on journalism techniques and using handheld devices and mobile phones to take pictures and send them to the news media.
According to these reports, security agents also searched the homes of some of the arrested journalists taking some personal items.
All arrested journalists worked for legally in-operation newspapers and publications.
Earlier last week Iranian prosecutor general had complained about some reporters who worked for domestic media while having connections with outside the country at the same time.
Iranian Minister of Culture, Mohammad Hosseini, told reporters today that he did know why the reporters were arrested but he added that their charges were not media related.
It is suspected that the Iranian clerics who rule the Islamic Republic are trying to tighten grips on the media as June presidential elections draws near. While candidates are all chosen from internals to the regime before the elections, still the ruling mullahs fear that the process may spark another wave of protests in the country similar to the one that broke out during the 2009 election.
“The constant persecution of journalists keeps on intensifying by the day,” Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “Iran has not yet emerged from the era of terror launched after the disputed June 2009 presidential election and now, five months before the next election in June 2013, a clear warning is being given – journalists and news media will be gagged.”
With increasing international pressures and economic sanctions due to its suspicious nuclear program and the growing in-fighting among ruling factions, the Iranian regime fears it may not survive the uproar of public dissent this time around.
There is currently no information on whereabouts of the arrested journalists.