Freedom of the press and of expression continued to be a central issue between hard-liners and political reformers in the country. The media are vibrant and critical despite official attempts to limit press freedom. Journalists are subjected to harsh prison sentences and exorbitant fines and even the death penalty for violating vaguely worded laws that prohibit insulting Islam or criticizing the Islamic Revolution and its supreme leader. Self-censorship is widely practiced as a result. The country's conservative Press Court sentenced dozens of journalists, mostly pro-reformists, to prison during the year. Iran has the highest number of imprisoned journalists in the Middle East. More than 80 publications have been shut down in the country since a crackdown on the independent press began in April 2000. A commission dominated by religious hard-liners was recently established to monitor the Internet and news Web sites considered to be "illegal."