The wave of arrests of Iranian journalists in Tehran on and around the 27 January has been followed by more interrogations and arrests in several provincial cities, according to Reporters Without Borders (RSF).
At least 15 journalists and netizens were summoned and interrogated for several hours by intelligence ministry officials in the southwestern city of Ilam on 17 February, reports RSF.
The media watchdog also said in a statement that around 10 journalists, netizens, political activists and civil society members have been summoned for questioning or arrested in other parts of the country. During interrogation, they were warned that undertaking any activities in connection with next June’s presidential election would be met with reprisals.
“With five months to go to the next presidential election…(the government is)…pursuing a strategy of preventive arrests and systematic intimidation of news providers. This operation is designed to silence any criticism of the growing obstruction of freedom of information and the crackdown on journalists who could draw attention to electoral fraud,” RSF said in a statement.
According to the media watchdog, 58 journalists and netizens are currently detained in Iran.
Iran’s intelligence ministry accused all foreign-based media that broadcast to Iran as well as RSF of being paid by European intelligence agencies to wage a psychological war against the Islamic Republic.
“Material (…) broadcast by these media to the Iranian public or used by Ahmed Shaheed, the special rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iran and by other bogus western human rights organizations for mendacious reports about the human rights situation in Iran,” the ministry said in a press release.
Ahmad Bakshaysh, a member of parliament’s National Security Committee, told the Roozonline newspaper that “these arrests are preventive…their aim is to prevent the activities of a network inside and outside the country in the run-up to the June 2013 presidential election.”