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Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 October, 2004, 16:16 GMT 17:16 UK
Iran cracks down on blog protests
Iranian internet user
Millions of people have access to the internet in Iran
Six online journalists and webloggers have been arrested in Iran recently in a crackdown on dissent on the internet.

"People charged for having illegal internet sites... will be put on trial soon," said a judiciary spokesman.

The trials would be "open" and charges included "acting against national security, disturbing the public mind and insulting sanctities".

Web journals flourish in Iran where the youthful, reform-hungry population has gone online for news and entertainment.

The popularity of the internet has grown as hardline judges closed about 100 printed publications since 2000.

We do not know where they are being held. We heard they have been kept in solitary confinement
Detained journalist's relative
Journalists and relatives quoted by Reuters named the six people arrested as Shahram Rafizadeh, Babak Ghafouri-Azar, Rouzbeh Amir-Ebrahimi, Hanif Mazroui, Omid Memarian and Mostafa Derayati.

"We do not know where they are being held. We heard they have been kept in solitary confinement," a relative is quoted as saying.

Correspondents say Iran has a poor record of press freedom, with more journalists behind bars than in any other Middle Eastern country.

The head of the judiciary, Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahrudi, announced new laws specifically covering "cyber crimes" on Monday, AFP reported.

According to the law, "anyone who disseminates information aimed at disturbing the public mind through computer systems or telecommunications... would be punished in accordance with the crime of disseminating lies".

Journalist grounded

Media freedom advocates have strongly protested against a travel ban imposed on Iranian journalist Emadedin Baghi, who was due to fly to the United States last week for an award recognising his work.

Mr Baghi was jailed in 2000 for publishing articles criticising Iranian intelligence agents' role in the murder of intellectuals and dissidents in 1998.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said that even after his release in 2003 "the authorities continue to persecute" Mr Baghi.

"Although it is too late for Emadeddin Baghi to receive his well-deserved Civil Courage Prize, we urge Iranian authorities to lift this travel ban immediately," said CPJ executive director Ann Cooper.

Mr Baghi's passport was confiscated at Tehran's airport on 4 October and he was prevented from leaving Iran by security agents, citing a court order banning him from leaving the country.

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