Arrested filmmakers include This is not a Film co-director Mojtaba Mirtahmasb and producer and sales agent Katayoon Shahabi [pictured] of Sheherazad Media International (SMI).

Concern and protests within the cinema world are growing over the arrests of six filmmakers by the Iranian authorities over the weekend.

The French association of writers, directors and producers (ARP) – headed by honorary president Claude Lelouche and vice-presidents Jean-Jacques Beineix, Dante Desarthe, Michel Hazanavicius – is among a number of bodies to have issued statements.

“Once again, and one time too many, the cineastes of ARP call for the release of these artists, saluting their courage in defending freedom of expression as well as the dignity of the Iranian people,” ARP said in a communiqué issued late Tuesday.

The BBC’s Persian service said on Monday that six filmmakers had been arrested over the weekend for allegedly working illegally for the station, but insisted that none of them were on its staff. The BBC has been banned in Iran since the beginning of 2010.

Iran’s Culture and Islamic guidance minister Seyed Mohammad Hosseini confirmed the news saying: “They are accused of collaborating with the BBC’s Persian TV station, but I am awaiting more details from the intelligence minister.”

The arrested filmmakers include Mojtaba Mirtahmasb, co-director of Jafar Panahi’s This is not a Film. At the beginning of September, the director was prevented from boarding a flight for France where he was due to promote the film ahead its theatrical release before attending the Toronto Film Festival.

The other detainees comprise directors Nasser Saffarian, Hadi Afarideh, Sahnam Bazdar and Mehrdad Zahedian, journalist and documentary maker Mohsen Shahnazdar and producer and sales agent Katayoomn Shehabi, managing director of Sheherazade Media International.

An indefatigable champion of Iranian documentaries, Shahabi is a regular on the festival and market circuit. She attended the Cannes Market this year with a slew of documentaries.

According to a statement from the London-based, non-profit film company and human rights NGO Cine Foundation International, Shahabi is being held in the notorious section 209 of Evin Prison.

“Section 209 of Evin Prison in Iran is run by the Ministry of Intelligence of the Islamic Republic… During the last years many of Iran’s political prisoners have died in this section under torture and many others kept in it have ended up being executed by firing squads or hanged,” the body said.

The International Film Festival Rotterdam posted a statement on its website, describing Shehabi as a regular guest of the festival. At the beginning of this year, she was a member of the festival’s NETPAC Jury for the best Asian film in the festival programme.

The weekend arrests follow the detention by the Iranian authorities of filmmaker and actress Mahnaz Mohammadi in June as well as the imprisonment on six year terms of Panahi and Good Bye director Mohammad Rasoulof in December 2010.