March 16, 2016 - Updated on April 26, 2016

On eve of Iranian New Year, concern about fate of imprisoned journalists

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) reiterates its concern about the conditions in which journalists are being detained in Iran, especially Afarine Chitsaz of the daily newspaper Iran, a young woman arrested at the same time as three other journalists on 2 November.

She was able to make a short phone call after her arrest but the authorities have

provided no official information about her detention.

According to the information obtained by RSF, she is now being held in isolation in Section 2A of Tehran’s Evin prison. The Revolutionary Guards control this section and subject detainees to a great deal of pressure, often with the aim of extracting confessions to be used at their trials.

Iran is the world’s biggest prison for women journalists, with four others currently held. The other four – Rihaneh Tabatabai, Roya Saberi Negad Nobakht, Narges Mohammadi and Atena Ferghdani – are serving jail terms ranging from one to twelve years and some some are in poor health.

There is also concern about the state of health of Issa Saharkhiz, a well-known independent journalist who is being tried along with Ehssan Mazndarani and Saman Safarzai by a Tehran revolutionary court on charges of “activities threatening national security” and anti-government propaganda. After going on hunger strike and suffering a heart attack, Saharkhiz has been in a Tehran hospital since 10 March.

On the eve of the Iranian New Year on 20 March, many journalists and citizen-

journalists are separated from their families,” said Reza Moini, the head of RSF’s Iran/Afghanistan desk. “The Iranian authorities – including President Hassan Rouhani, whose silence facilitates this persecution – could display clemency towards these detainees, who have been arrested arbitrarily and convicted unjustly. We call for their immediate and unconditional release.”

RSF has meanwhile learned that Saraj Mirdamadi, a journalist who worked for various media outlets including Hayat-é-No (a daily closed in January 2003) and Zamaneh (a radio station based in the Netherlands), was released conditionally on 13 March.

He was freed under article 58 of the Islamic criminal code (as amended in 2013),

under which detainees who have served a third of their sentence can be released for good behaviour. Arrested on 10 May 2014, he was convicted on 21 July 2015 on charges of “meeting and plotting against the Islamic Republic” and “anti-government publicity.”

With a total of 36 journalists and citizen-journalists currently detained, Iran is still one of the world’s five biggest prisons for media personnel and is ranked 173rd out of 180 countriesin the 2015 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.