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Iran's Kurdish Media Crackdown

Iranian authorities have banned the Iranian-Kurdish weekly newspaper Payam-e Kurdistan. Published in Kurdish and Persian, Payam-e Kurdistan was printed in Mahabad and distributed in Iran's West Azerbaijan, Ilam, Kurdistan, and Kermanshah provinces.

Human rights monitors say Iran has stepped up its repression of Iranian-Kurdish journalists. Authorities continue to detain Kia Jahani, a long-time contributor to the Kurdish-language television station, Kurdistan TV. He was arrested on February 24th. Two other Iranian Kurdish journalists, Adnan Hassanpour and Kaveh Javanmard, have been imprisoned for several months.

The press freedom monitoring group Reporters Without Borders issued a statement saying the plight of journalists in the Kurdish area of Iran is getting worse. "With increasing frequency," said Reporters Without Borders, "they are being arrested arbitrarily and held incommunicado without the authorities feeling it necessary to inform or provide them with a lawyer."

In its latest human rights report, the U.S. State Department says that Iran severely restricts freedom of the press. Iran's penal code states that "anyone who undertakes any form of propaganda against the state" can be imprisoned, which basically means the government can put anyone in jail they want. The law also forbids the dissemination of information that offends government officials and religious authorities.

The United Nations General Assembly has expressed concern over the violent repression of Kurds and other ethnic minorities in Iran by the government. During 2006, over two-hundred-fifty Kurds were arrested and three were reportedly killed in clashes with Iranian police.

U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack says Iran should "release those arrested and imprisoned for insisting on their universal rights":

"The regime's repression affects religious minorities, students, women, labor unions, journalists, and academics. We are working with the international community, through the United Nations, foreign governments, and international nongovernmental organizations to focus attention on the Iranian regime's continued abuse of its own citizens and press for improvements in its dismal human rights record."

"The U.S.," said State Department spokesman Sean McCormack, "calls on the Iranian regime to cease the systematic oppression of its citizens" and "respect the rights of all Iranian people."