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Iran cracks down on blog protests


DC09

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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.

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".

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That will teach you to have an independent thought...

Freedom of speech is a good thing...

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