According to new figures from the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), more journalists are currently imprisoned in Iran than have been held by any other country since 1996, when the committee found 78 imprisonments in Turkey.

Iranian authorities are now holding at least 47 journalists in prison, the CPJ says on its website, with at least 26 journalists jailed in the last two months alone.

The number of imprisoned journalists in Iran has more than doubled since 1 December 2009, when the CPJ's annual worldwide census of imprisoned journalists found 23 journalists were in prison in the country. This increase in imprisonments means Iran currently has more journalists imprisoned than any other country, including China which had the most (24) according to the 1 December survey.

While many of those currently held where imprisoned following the post-election violence in June last year, the new figures from the CPJ suggest that Iranian authorities are still targeting independent and opposition journalists.

The survey by CPJ, which conducted a census of imprisoned Iranian journalists on 1 February, does not include more than 50 other journalists in the country who have been imprisoned and released on bail over in recent months.

"In most cases, authorities have filed vague anti-state charges such as 'propagation against the regime', 'insulting authorities', and 'disrupting public order'. But many cases are shrouded in secrecy, without even formal charges being disclosed," says the CPJ website, which carries details of most of the journalists currently incarcerated.

"Some detainees have already been sentenced to lengthy prison terms, lashes, internal exile, and lifetime bans on writing and other social and political activities. One is on death row. The cases of many others are pending. At least two face heresy charges that, upon conviction, would bring the death penalty."

The committee has expressed concern about the ongoing crackdown on journalists in Iran and will conduct monthly surveys of those imprisoned in addition to its annual international census.

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