Press freedom violations recounted in real time January 2019
18.12.2019 – Five journalists get total of 25 years in prison
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is appalled by a Tehran appeal court’s decision to uphold prison sentences for four journalists with the student newspaper Game – Amir Hossein Mohammadi Far, Sanaz Allahyari, Amir Amirghol and Assal Mohammadi, – even if the court reduced the length of the jail terms from 18 to 5 years for each journalist – for a combined total of 20 years. They were arrested in January 2019 in connection with her coverage of a strike for more pay by Haft-Tappeh Sugarcane company workers who staged a three-week protest outside the governor’s office in the southern district of Shush. The 18-year jail sentences were passed by a Tehran revolutionary court in September.
The same appeal court also upheld a prison sentence for Marzieh Amiri, a journalist with the daily newspaper Shargh, but reduced her sentence from 10 years in prison and 148 lashes to 5 years in prison. Amiri was arrested in Tehran in 1 May after covering a demonstration outside parliament. She and the other four journalists were released on 26 October pending the appeal court’s decision. They did not attend the appeal hearing and the court’s decision was sent to their lawyers.
10.12.2019 - Mohammad Mosaed released on bail
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has learned that Mohammad Mosaed, was released on bail on 17 december, pending trial. He was arrested on 17 November for nothing more than a tweet.
08.12.2019 – Detained journalists moved to provincial prisons
Many detained journalists and citizen-journalists have been transferred in recent days from Tehran to provincial prisons. They include Kasra Nouri and Saleholldin Moradi, who worked for the Sufi news website Majzooban Noor. Along with other detained members of the Gonabadi dervish religious community, they have been transferred to Adel Abad prison in Shiraz, 900 km south of Tehran. Several of them have been on hunger strike for the past month in protest against prison conditions.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns these transfers, which constitute an additional way of persecuting journalists and their families and violate article 513, which says, “prisoners are detained in the place where they were arrested and convicted.”
25.11.2019 - Iranian freelance journalist arrested for tweet
“Hello free world! I used 42 different proxies to write this. Millions of Iranians don’t have Internet. Can you hear us?” Freelance journalist Mohammad Mosaed was arrested for posting this tweet a few hours after the Internet was disconnected in Iran on 16 November, and for naming journalists who had agreed to use the government-provided Internet without referring to the current wave of protests.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the arrest of Mosaed, who resigned from his position as a business reporter with the daily Shargh eight months ago in order “to work freely to combat corruption.” As with most of the people arrested in connection with the protests, the authorities have not yet said why he was arrested or where he is being held. He nonetheless managed to make a short phone call to his family to tell them he had been detained. His Twitter account has been inaccessible since his arrest.
20.11.2019 - Arrest of journalist linked to former President Ahmadinejad
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the latest arrest of Abdol Reza Davari, who used to run the newspaper Shahrvand and the government news agency Irna and was former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s press adviser. He was arrested on 17 November, a few hours after posting a tweet about the massive protests in Iran. Active on social networks, he was previously detained from May 2017 to September 2018, serving 15 months of a three-year jail sentence for “insulting” the Supreme Leader. There is so far no official word on the reason for his latest arrest and where he is being held.
05.11.2019 – Game journalist released conditionally
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has learned that Assal Mohammadi, a member of the student newspaper Game’s editorial board, was released on bail on 1 November pending an appeal court hearing. After her original arrest in December 2018 in connection with her coverage of a strike for more pay by Haft-Tappeh Sugarcane company workers, she was freed on bail of 400 million toman (10,000 euros) that was subsequently increased to 1 billion toman (212,000 euros). A Tehran court ordered her re-arrest in early August, following which she, three other Game journalists and several labour activists were all given long jail terms in connection with the strike.
28.10.2019 - Four journalists released provisionally
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has learned that four journalists were released provisionally on 26 October. They were Marzieh Amiri, a journalist with the newspaper Shargh, and three members of the student newspaper Game’s editorial board – Amir Hossein Mohammadi Far, Sanaz Allahyari and Amir Amirgholi – who were released pending confirmation of their appeal court hearing. Far, Allahyari and Amirgholi were freed on bail of 1 billion toman (about 900,000 euros), 800 million toman and 1.5 billion toman respectively. Their release follows a series of protest by fellow detainees, some of whom went on hunger strike. The hunger strikers included Sepideh Gholian and Esmail Bakhshi, two activists who, like the three Game journalists, were arrested in connection with a strike by workers at the Haft-Tappeh Sugarcane company.
23.10.2019 - Journalist sent back to prison in Khorramabad
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns journalist Amin Masouri’s imprisonment in Khorramabad, the capital of Lorestan province, on 23 October. The editor of the weekly Stinging with a pen and the news site Shopi, he was arrested on 16 January and was released on bail a month later pending trial. A local revolutionary court sentenced him to two years in prison on charges of anti-government propaganda and “insulting the Supreme Leader.”
10.10.2019 – Iran releases Russian journalist
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has learned that Yulia Yuzik, the Russian journalist arrested last week in Iran, has been released and flew back to Russia today. This was revealed by the Russian embassy in Tehran. Russian media confirmed her arrival in Moscow on a flight from Tehran. Revolutionary Guards arrested her on 2 October for alleged spying, although Iranian officials later said she was being held because of a “visa problem.”
09.10.2019 – Farangis Mazloom released on bail
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has learned that Farangis Mazloom, the mother of Soheil Arabi, the winner of the 2017 RSF Press Freedom Prize in the citizen-journalist category, was released on bail on 8 October pending trial. She had been held in isolation in Section 209 of Tehran’s Evin prison, a security section controlled by the intelligence ministry. Although the charges against her have not yet been officially announced, her only crime seems to have been informing the public about the conditions in which her imprisoned son is being held and condemning the inhuman and degrading treatment he has been receiving.
10.09.2019 – 72-year jail terms for four student journalists
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the 18-year prison sentences that a Tehran revolutionary court has passed on four members of the editorial board of the student newspaper Game on charges of anti-government propaganda, “meeting and plotting against the government,” disturbing public order and insulting government officials.
The journalists sentenced to a combined total of 72 years in prison are Sanaz Allahyari and her husband Amir Hossein Mohammadi Far, Assal Mohammadi and Amir Amirgholi. Their lawyers have condemned these extremely harsh sentences and have announced that they are appealing.
The four journalists have been held since January 2019, when they were arrested for covering strikes and protests by workers at the Haft-Tappeh Sugarcane company, who demonstrated for 20 days outside the office of the governor of the southern district of Shush to demand more wages.
03.09.2019 - Jailed photographer’s sister arrested
As 200 Iranian film and theatre intellectuals and performers published a joint open letter yesterday calling for jailed photojournalist Noushin Jafari’s release, Jafari’s’s sister, Sharzad Jafari, was arrested by Revolutionary Guard intelligence agents in civilian dress. She had been threatened for posting information about her sister’s plight on social networks. A photojournalist specializing in cover the film and theatre world, Noushin Jafari has been detained since 3 August.
27.08.2019 - Saeed Malekpour back in Canada
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has learned that Saeed Malekpour, an Iranian blogger and website designer who had been detained in Iran for the past 11 years, managed to leave the country while on a furlough from prison and return to Canada, where he has permanent resident status. He returned on 3 August.
Malekpour was held incommunicado for more than a year after being arrested while visiting his family in Iran in 2008. He was sentenced to death in November 2010 on a charge of creating “pornographic” websites and “insulting Islam’s sacred principles,” because he had created a photo-sharing app that was used without his knowledge to transmit pornographic images. His sentence was commuted to life imprisonment in 2016.
01.08.2019 - Soheil Arabi ends hunger strike after prison transfer
Soheil Arabi, the recipient of RSF’s 2017 Press Freedom Prize in the citizen-journalist category, ended his hunger strike after being moved back to Evin prison on 28 July from the notorious Greater Tehran Prison, 30 km south of the capital, where he had been subjected to repeated physical violence. He had been transferred to Greater Tehran Prison in February 2018. His mother, Farangis Mazloom, who was arrested on 22 July, is currently being held in Evin prison’s Security Section 209, his family say. The grounds for her arrest are still not known.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has meanwhile also learned that Moloud Hajizadeh, a freelance journalist specializing in women’s rights who was arrested on 15 July after receiving a summons from prosecutors, was released on bail three days later pending trial.
16.07.2019 – Blogger freed after serving ten-year jail term
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has learned that Sakhi Righi, a blogger who kept a blog called Balochistan-s, was finally released on 11 July after servinga ten-year jail sentence. Arrested on 18 June 2009 in Zahedan, his home town in the far east of Iran, he was initially sentenced to 20 years in prison on charges of “publishing false information” and “activities against national security.” The jail term was eventually reduced to ten years under article 134 of the new Islamic penal code, under which a person convicted on several criminal charges serves only the longest sentence. For more than nine years, he was held in appalling conditions in Karon prison, in the southwestern city of Ahvaz, 1,600 km from his home town.
15.07.2019 – Journalist specializing in women’s rights arrested
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the arrest of Moloud Hajizadeh, a journalist specializing in women’s rights. She was arrested on 15 July after receiving a summons from prosecutors. According to relatives, she had been summoned and questioned by Revolutionary Guard intelligence officers several times recently. Her family has yet to learn the grounds for her arrest. She was previously arrested during an International Women’s Day demonstration in March 2018. The regime has launched a wave of arrests of women’s rights activists in response to an increase in protests in recent months against the obligation to wear the hijab (headscarf). At last ten women have been arrested in Tehran in the past few months.
03.07.2019 - Three citizen-journalists on hunger strike
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the conditions in which many arbitrarily detained journalists and citizen-journalists are being held in Iranian prisons. Many are being denied medical care despite being ill or despite being badly affected physically and psychologically by their imprisonment.
RSF is particularly concerned about the health of three of them who began a hunger strike a month ago in protest against the inhuman and degrading treatment inflicted on them by prison and judicial officials. They are Soheil Arabi, the recipient of the 2017 RSF Press Freedom Prize in the citizen-journalist category, and two members of the editorial staff of the student newspaper Game, Amir Hossein Mohammadi Far and Sanaz Allahyari.
More and more Iranian prisoners, including journalists, are risking their lives by going on hunger strike to protest against the conditions and mistreatment to which they are subjected in prison, or to demand proper medical care.
20.06.2019 - Two journalists attacked in Greater Tehran prison
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) deplores the irresponsible attitude of the Iranian authorities towards the safety of imprisoned journalists and citizen-journalists after two citizen-journalists were injured in a fight with ordinary detainees in Greater Tehran prison on 18 June.
One of them, Mostafa Abdi, a journalist with the Sufi website Majzooban Noor, sustained a facial injury. The other, Reza Sigarchie, suffered a nose fracture. This happened two days after a political prisoner, Alireza Shirmohammad-Ali, was stabbed to death by two ordinary inmates in Greater Tehran prison. The Iranian authorities refuse to recognize political prisoners as such.
18.06.2019 - Two journalists released
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has learned that Kayvan Samimi Behbahani, the editor of the monthly newspaper Iran Farda, was released on bail on 17 June pending trial. He had been held since his arrest during a demonstration organized by independent labour unions outside parliament on 1 May.
RSF has also learned that Mohammad Hossien Hidari, the editor of Dolat e Bahar news website, was released on 21 March after serving a one-year prison sentence. Linked to the political current that supports the controversial former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, he was arrested on 22 May 2018 and was convicted of anti-government propaganda.
17.06.2019 – Photojournalist arrested in southern province
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has learned that Milad Bahri, a photojournalist arrested on 15 May in Shadegan, in the southwestern province of Khuzestan, was transferred on 3 June to Sheiban prison in Ahvaz, the provincial capital. After his arrest by intelligence ministry agents, Bahri was initially held at the ministry’s detention centre in Shadegan. His family has still not been told why he is being held. According to his family, he had been very active in his coverage of flood-hit areas. Many journalists and citizen-journalists have been arrested since 22 March in connection with the unpreceded flash flooding that hit much of Iran, especially the south.
03.06.2019 - Massoud Kazami to serve a two-year jail term
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is appalled to learn that Massoud Kazami, a freelance journalist who used to work for the daily newspaper Shargh (see the 22 May 2019 entry below), has been sentenced to a total of four and a half years in prison and a two-year ban on media activity after his release.
Kazami was given a two-year jail term for “insulting Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei,” two years for “publishing false information” and six months for “insulting regime officials.” He will have to serve two years under article 134 of the Islamic criminal code, which says that a person convicted on several charges only serves the sentence applied to the most serious one. His lawyer says he has filed an appeal.
22.05.2019 - Former Shargh reporter arrested
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns journalist Massoud Kazami’s arrest on 22 May after he was tried by a Tehran revolutionary court. According to his lawyer, Ali Mojtahedzadeh, two new charges – anti-government propaganda and “meeting and plotting against the government” – have been brought against him. A former reporter for the daily newspaper Shargh, Kazami often posts tweets criticizing the leaders of the different government factions.
Amir Hossein Mohammadi Far, Sanaz Allahyari and Amir Amirgholi, three members of the editorial staff of the student newspaper Game who were arrested in January, are meanwhile still being held pending trial (see the 15 January report below). The three citizen-journalists were transferred to Tehran’s Evin prison on 28 April, but the Evin prosecutor’s office says it has not received their case file from the ministry of intelligence. This is preventing their case from being processed.
16.05.2019 - Raid on monthly Iran Farda
Ministry of intelligence agents searched the headquarters of the monthly Iran Farda on 12 May, confiscating computers, data storage devices and files. Iran Farda’s editor, Kayvan Samimi Behbahani, has been detained since 1 May, when he was arrested during a demonstration organized by independent labour unions outside parliament. It is not known where or why Behbahani and Marzieh Amiri, a journalist arrested the same day (see the 6 May report below), are being held.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) points out that arbitrary detention in a secret location constitutes a flagrant breach of article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and articles 9 and 11 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. It also violates articles 32 and 39 of the Iranian constitution.
14.05.2019 – Hengameh Shahidi’s long jail term upheld on appeal
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns a Tehran appeal court’s decision to uphold the sentence of 12 years and nine months in prison that Hengameh Shahidi, a journalist and
editor of the Paineveste blog, received for her revelations about the lack of justice within the Iranian judicial system and her criticism of its chief, Sadegh Amoli Larijan. Passed on 1 December 2018 at the end of a trial behind closed doors, the sentence includes a ban on joining political groups, a ban on any online or media activity, and a ban on leaving the country after she has completed the jail term. She was arrested on being discharged from hospital on 25 June 2018 and has been held in isolation and denied her basic rights ever since.
13.06.2019 – Weekly suspended, journalist arrested
The Tehran prosecutor’s office for media and culture suspended the pro-reform weekly Seda (“The Voice” in Persian) on 11 May. Officials gave no grounds for the decision and a phone call was used to notify the weekly. The latest issue’s front-page story was about the tension between Iran and the United States, described as a “choice between war and peace,” and the possible options for negotiation, which the regime does not accept.
Ali Mlihi, a journalist the Seda and the monthly Indisheh Poya, was arrested the next day by agents from the prosecutor’s office for media and culture after he reported in a tweet that Seda had been suspended for “warning of the danger of war and the need to negotiate.” He was released pending trial after being held for several hours and paying bail.
6.05.2019 - Two journalists arrested arbitrarily on May Day
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the arrests of two journalists – Kayvan Samimi Behbahani, the editor of the monthly Iran Farda, and Marzieh Amiri, a reporter for the daily newspaper Shargh – on 1 May.
Samimi Behbahani, who also heads a press freedom association, was arrested by security and intelligence agents during a demonstration organized by independent labour unions outside the parliament building in Tehran. Amiri was arrested while she was reporting outside the intelligence police station on Tehran’s Vozara Avenue.
Both journalists are still being held in Security Section 209 of Tehran’s Evin prison although many of the protesters arrested on 1 May have since been bailed and although a request was made for Samimi Behbahani’s release on bail.
After being arrested in June 2009, Samimi Behbahani was sentenced in February 2010 to six years in prison on charges of “publishing false information with the aim of confusing public opinion” and “activities against national security.” He was finally released in May 2015.
24.01.2019 – Two citizen-journalists released
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has learned that two citizen-journalists, Alireza Tavakoli and Mohammad Mehdi Zaman Zadeh, were released conditionally on 18 and 20 January respectively on completing half of their five-year jail sentences.
Arrested in September 2016, they were originally sentenced to 12 years in prison in April 2017 on charges of “insulting [Supreme Leader] Ali Khamenei and Ruhollah Khomeini, the Islamic Republic’s founder,” “insulting what is most sacred in Islam” and anti-government propaganda.
These sentences were later reduced to five years in prison on appeal. And finally, on the occasion of the Iranian New Year (March 2018), the five-year sentences were reduced to two and a half years under article 134 of the New Islamic Penal Code, according to which those convicted of several crimes serve only the sentence for the most serious charge.
22.01.2019 - Another member of the student newspaper Game arrested
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has learned that another member of the student newspaper Game, civil society activist Amir Amirgholi, was arrested at the same time as two colleagues (see the 15 January post below), but his arrest was not confirmed officially at the time. His Twitter et WhatsApp accounts remained active for more than 48 hours, until his father reported that “intelligence ministry agents” were using them. His family does not know where or why he is being held.
Iranian state TV broadcast a “documentary” on 19 January in which several activists and workers, who had been arrested in connection with the Haft-Tappeh Sugarcane company strike, confessed to being in contact with opposition communist parties abroad. Broadcast on prime time on Channel 2, which is reputed to be an intelligence agency mouthpiece, the broadcast also showed a meeting of the staff of Game, calling it a “subversive group.”
Two people who were freed provisionally after been arrested in connection with the strike, the activist Sepideh Gholian and the worker Esmail Bakhshi, reported on social networks several days before this broadcast that they had been tortured. The authorities issued formal denials and intelligence ministry agents re-arrested them the day after the broadcast. Their torture claims have meanwhile prompted an outcry and a “I was also tortured” campaign on social networks. Several other former detainees have also now reported being tortured in detention.
16.01.2019 - Persecution of Narges Mohammadi continues
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the unrelenting manner in which the Iranian judicial system and the authorities in Tehran’s Evin prison continue to persecute the 46-year-old journalist and human rights activist Narges Mohammadi.
She and one of her fellow detainees, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe (who has British and Iranian dual citizenship) began a hunger strike on 14 January in protest against the way they are denied proper medical attention. Mohammadi has been allowed no phone calls ever since announcing the planned hunger strike two weeks ago, including her weekly phone calls with her children, who live in exile in France with their father.
The spokesperson of Iran’s banned Centre for Human Rights Defenders, Mohammadi has been held since 5 May 2015 and has been sentenced to a total of 16 years in prison on several charges, although she is officially supposed to serve “only” ten of these years, according to a law adopted in the summer of 2015 under which those convicted of several crimes serve only the sentence for the most serious charge.
An employee of the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the London-based charitable arm of the Thomson Reuters news agency, Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested while visiting her family in Tehran in April 2016 and was sentenced to five years in prison in September 2016.
15.01.2019 - Two more student newspaper journalists arrested
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has learned that two citizen-journalists – Amir Hossein Mohammadi Far, the editor of the student newspaper Game, and Sanaz Allahyari, a member of its editorial staff – were arrested at their Tehran homes by intelligence ministry agents on 9 January. There has not yet been any official statement about the reason for their arrest. According to their families, they were taken to the southern city of Ahavaz. RSF has been told that, like fellow Game journalist Assal Mohammadi, they have been arrested for their coverage of strikes by workers at the Haft-Tappeh Sugarcane company, who demonstrated for 20 days outside the office of the governor of the southern district of Shush to demand more wages.
07.01.2019 - Citizen-journalist released pending trial
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has learned that Assal Mohammadi, a citizen-journalist who was arrested at her Tehran home on 4 December, has been released provisionally. After payment of bail, she was freed on 5 January pending trial. A student at the Islamic Azad University and member of the editorial board of the student newspaper Game, she was arrested after writing about strikes by workers at the Haft-Tappeh Sugarcane company, who demonstrated for 20 days outside the office of the governor of the southern district of Shush to demand more wages.
Iran is one of the world’s five biggest prisons for journalists and citizen-journalists, according to RSF’s 2018 round-up.
For more information : RSF writes to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights about journalists detained in Iran