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Toronto film festival blasts Iran detention of filmmakers

Toronto film festival organizers condemn the arrest of six Iranian filmmakers on espionage charges

AFP, Tuesday 27 Sep 2011

Organizers of the Toronto film festival, the largest in North America, on Monday decried the arrest of six filmmakers in Iran "whose work should be seen and their voices heard."

In a statement, they expressed "deep concern" over the arrest last week of Mojtaba Mirtahmasb, Katayoun Shahabi, Hadi Afarideh, Nasser Saffarian, Shahnama Bazdar and Mohsen Shahrnazdar by Iranian authorities on espionage charges.

Mirtahmasb is the co-director of banned Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi's latest film "This Is Not A Film," which was screened earlier this month at the Toronto film festival.
"We are extremely concerned by the arrest of these six filmmakers, whose work should be seen and their voices heard," the organizers said.

"Iran's filmmakers (including this group) have long been celebrated as representatives of a rich and vibrant culture.
"Their films have been shown at festivals all over the world, including here in Toronto. Filmmakers must be allowed to express themselves through their films, without fear of reprisal."

On 17 September, media announced the arrests of five men and a woman for allegedly gathering information for the BBC's Farsi service, but identified them only by their initials.

They were reported as having been detained for "providing the BBC Farsi (service) with information, films and secret reports to paint a black picture of Iran and Iranians."

The BBC Farsi service, accused by the regime of fueling unrest following the disputed 2009 re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, does not have an office in Iran.
Tehran prohibits cooperation with Farsi broadcasters that and are not controlled by the regime, including the BBC and the Voice of America which are very popular in Iran.
Satellite channels are also routinely scrambled by the authorities.

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