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Iranian Journalist Charged Over 'Unauthorized Blog'

An image of Zhila Baniyaghoub flanks a presenter at an International Press Freedom Award event in Toronto in December 2009.
Prominent Iranian journalist and human rights activist Zhila Baniyaghoub is facing a new criminal charge based on statements written on her blog, RFE/RL's Radio Farda reports.

Baniyaghoub's trial at a still unspecified date will be her fourth since Iran's controversial June 2009 presidential election.

Baniyaghoub was arrested in June 2009 during the postelection crackdown along with her husband, fellow journalist Bahman Amouee. She was released on bail after two months in detention.

In June 2010, Baniyaghoub was charged with "spreading propaganda against the regime" and "insulting the president." She was sentenced to one year in prison and banned from any journalistic activities for 30 years. To date, she has not been taken to prison to serve her term.

Baniyaghoub is editor in chief of the Focus on Iranian Women website and also writes in her personal blog, "We Are Journalists."

Baniyaghoub's lawyer, Farideh Gheirat, has said that in her client's new case, which was presented at a preliminary hearing on April 9, a new charge was made of "having a personal blog without any authorization from government authorities."

Attorney Mohammad Hossein Aghasi told Radio Farda on April 11 that there is nothing in Iran's constitution forbidding people from having personal blogs.

"Having a weblog, a website, and the like needs no [official] authorization under Iranian law," Aghasi said.

Baniyaghoub was awarded the Courage In Journalism prize by the International Women's Media Foundation in 2009 and the Freedom of Speech Award from Reporters Without Borders in 2010.

More than 2,000 journalists, activists, students, and others were jailed in the crackdown that followed the disputed June 2009 reelection of Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad.

Many were subsequently released, while dozens were sentenced to prison terms.

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