Canadian PM calls for Iran to release journalists

OTTAWA (AFP) — Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper Monday called on Iran to halt its assault on press freedoms and release all political prisoners and journalists, including Canadians.

Iranian authorities should “immediately cease the use of violence against their own people, to release all political prisoners and journalists — including Canadians — who have been unjustly detained,” he said.

Tehran must “allow Iranian and foreign media to report freely on these historic events, and to conduct a full and transparent investigation into allegations of fraud in the presidential election,” he said.

On Sunday, a Canadian journalist working in Iran for Newsweek magazine was detained without charge by Iranian authorities, the magazine said, adding Maziar Bahari had not been heard from since.

The New York-based magazine also said in a statement that as many as 20 journalists and bloggers were reported to have been detained since Iran’s June 12 elections, which set off mass protests after official results gave incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a landslide victory.

Among them, a reporter for the Toronto-based Globe and Mail newspaper was briefly detained last week after being swept up in police crackdown. Authorities eventually apologized and released him.

Harper said: “The reaction of the Iranian authorities to the demonstrations in Iran is wholly unacceptable.”

He accused Iran of trampling on freedoms of assembly and free expression, beating demonstrators and then arresting them when they arrive at hospital for treatment.

“Journalists have been prevented from covering protests and subjected to arbitrary detention and arrest,” he said. “Foreign press credentials have been revoked.”

“The regime has chosen to use brute force and intimidation in responding to peaceful opposition regarding legitimate and serious allegations of electoral fraud,” he said.

Canada’s distaste for these goings-on in Iran would be strongly conveyed to its envoy in Ottawa, he added.

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