Iran cracks down on journalists again in response to UN report
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the latest crackdown on the media in Iran, in which at least five journalists have been targeted just weeks after the UN published a damning report on 21 July by special rapporteur Javaid Rehman on the appalling situation of human rights, including the freedom to inform, in this country.
The latest victims include Mohammad Mosaed, a freelance journalist who was sentenced by a revolutionary court on 2 September to four years and nine months in prison, followed by a two-year ban on journalistic activity, for “blackening” the situation, reporting “fake crises” and “emptying readers’ minds.”
Arrested on 17 November 2019 for reporting an Internet cut on Twitter, Mosaed was released on bail 20 days later. He was summoned and interrogated again by Revolutionary Guard intelligence officials on 23 February in connection with messages he had posted on social media about the coronavirus epidemic.
Kosar Karimi, a reporter for Mehr News (an offshoot of the Islamic Development Organization, an Islamic propaganda organ), was arrested on 28 August for covering a protest in Abolfazi, a village near the southern city of Ahvaz. Residents of the village, who have been trying to prevent the destruction of their homes by Iran’s richest religious foundation for the past year, have clashed with police in recent days.
According to one of Mehr News’ editors, Karimi was released on bail on the same day that he was arrested, but the IDO’s vice-president said, “an official threatened to have the news agency’s director summoned to get this journalist to stop covering these events.”
Freelance journalist Babak Tahmasebi was meanwhile notified on 29 August that a court in Ahvaz had confirmed his sentence of two years in prison and 74 lashes for publishing “false news” and “defamation.” The case was the result of a lawsuit by the National Iranian Drilling Company (NIDC) in response to an article about worsening conditions for its workers. A warrant for Tahmasebi’s arrest was issued the same day.
Tabnak news website reporter Amirreza Amir Taimouri was summoned for questioning by the FATA (cyber-police) in the southeastern city of Kerman on 30 August as a result of a complaint by a local parliamentarian and the head of the parliamentary economic commission accusing him of “publishing false information with the aim of upsetting public opinion.” He was released on bail pending trial.
A court in Gonbad-e Kavus (in the northeastern province of Golestan) sentenced local freelance journalist Aman Mohammad Khojamli on 13 August to pay a fine of 1.6 million toman for “publishing false information.” Khojamli, who was arrested on 7 February and then released on bail pending trial, told journalists he was convicted for articles about the economic crisis.
“The increase in protests against the Iranian government has resulted in an increase in the persecution of journalists,” said Reza Moini, the head of RSF’s Iran-Afghanistan desk. “After publishing its report on the situation in Iran, the UN Human Rights Council must now take concrete measures to defend journalists and citizen-journalists, who are being censored, threatened, detained arbitrarily, mistreated and sometimes tortured just for doing their job.”
Iran is ranked 173rd out of 180 countries in RSF's 2020 World Press Freedom Index.