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Last Updated: Friday, 2 May, 2003, 10:03 GMT 11:03 UK
Bloggers unite to fight
Computer shop in Iran
Computer equipment is freely available in Iran

Web log writers around the world are joining forces to protest against the detention of a fellow blogger.

Iranian Sina Motallebi has been held by the authorities on, so far, unspecified charges and now fellow web users are banding together to press for his release.

An online petition has been set up calling for the release of Mr Motallebi and for a halt to harassment of journalists by the Iranian Government.

The cause has been picked up by other bloggers, who are also calling for his release.

Online protest

In many Middle Eastern countries the web has become hugely important as an alternative method of communication, partly because it is often subject to less stringent control than newspapers, TV or radio.

Handcuffed prisoner, Corbis

In Iran many journalists, commentators and young people have set up web-based journals or blogs that document their daily lives and thoughts.

Before setting up and running the prominent Rooznegar blog, Mr Motallebi was a staff reporter on a reformist newspaper called Hayat-e-No which was shut down by the Iranian authorities in January.

On 20 April he was arrested, reportedly because of interviews with the press on his website and for defending another former Hayat-e-No journalist who ran a cartoon in a newspaper that offended the government.

Since his detention Iranian bloggers have rallied to his cause.

San Diego-based Pedram Moallemian has set up a petition to call for Mr Motallebi's release and has publicised the case beyond Iran.

He has been joined by Iranian Hossein Derakhshan who passed information about Mr Motallebi to high profile bloggers in the US such as Dan Gillmor of the San Jose Mercury News.

The petition has made an appearance on many blogs and has appeared high in the rankings of the Blogdex and Daypop sites that catalogue what is popular among bloggers.

So far, almost 3,000 people have signed the petition online.

However, Mr Derakhshan noted on his blog that all the support could cause further problems for Mr Motallebi during interrogation.

Reporters Without Borders has issued a statement deploring Mr Motallebi's detention and other attacks on journalists.

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