Press freedom violations recounted in real time (January -December 2021)
Follow the news on press freedom in Iran :
09.11.2021 - Conservative daily closed for drawing Supreme Leader’s hand
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the conservative daily Kelid’s closure by the Press Licensing and Surveillance Commission, an offshoot of the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance. The Commission rescinded Kelid’s licence yesterday for publishing the drawing of a hand very similar to the hand of Ali Khamenei, the Islamic Revolution’s Supreme Leader, in a well-known photo. Published on the cover of the 6 November issue, the drawing showed the hand tracing a red line across the page under the headline, “Millions of Iranians living under the poverty line.” The drawing was regarded as an “insult to the Islamic Republic’s Supreme Leader,” which is a crime under article 27 of Iran’s press law.
03.11.2021 – Former newspaper editor released on medical grounds
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is relieved to learn that Reza Taleshian Jelodarzadeh, the onetime editor of Sobeh Azad (a weekly that was shut down in October 2011), has been released conditionally after serving 10 months of a three-year jail term. A forensic doctor said he was unable to continue serving his sentence on medical grounds. Jelodarzadeh has a serious illness that is the result of an injury sustained during the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war. He was arrested in Tehran in January 2021 to begin serving the jail term he had received in June 2019 on charges of anti-government propaganda and “confusing online public opinion online.” He was also sentenced to a fine of 40 million rials (800,000 euros) and a two-year ban on leaving the country and on any political, journalistic or civil society activity. An appeal court upheld his conviction and sentence a few months later.
15.10.2021 - Two journalists arrested for reporting that children were raped
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the arrests of two journalists in Ahar, a city in northern Iran’s East Azerbaijan province, for reporting that several children between the ages of 7 and 11 were allegedly raped, sexually assaulted or subjected sexual harassment by a teacher who is a member of the Revolutionary Guard militias.
Reporter Abolfazal Pourhossien Qoli and photographer Arash Shadmand, who work for Sehrama, a local media outlet, were arrested by Revolutionary Guards on 30 September and 1 October respectively, and were transferred to a Revolutionary Guard prison in Tehran without their families being told where or why they were being held. The prosecutor’s office in Ahar had had told the media not to cover the story although the families of two of the children filed complaints with the local judicial authorities.
09.06.2021 - Jailed citizen-journalist Soheil Arabi tried for the 13th time
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the never-ending judicial persecution of jailed Iranian photojournalist Soheil Arabi, the recipient of RSF’s Press Freedom Prize in the citizen-journalist category in 2017, as well as the regime’s continuing harassment of his family.
“This is the 13th time he is appearing before a judge since his imprisonment in 2013,” his mother, Farangis Mazloom, told Voice of America’s Persian-language service. She reported that he has been charged with anti-government propaganda, meeting and plotting against national security and lying about prison officials and judicial system representatives “because of letters published in the media or posted on social media that he wrote individually or jointly with others to denounce the degrading and inhuman situation to which he and other prisoners are subjected in prison.”
Mazloom is herself waiting to be jailed to begin serving an 18-month prison sentence that an appeal court confirmed in March. Her only crime was to inform public opinion about the conditions in which her son was been held since his arrest in December 2013, and to protest about the inhuman and degrading treatment to which he has been subjected. The victim of arbitrary and illegal judicial and “disciplinary” harassment, Arabi has been moved from prison to prison, placed in solitary confinement for long periods, and even tortured and injured. The judicial persecution has not let up since he became the mouthpiece of detainees denouncing the appalling conditions in Iran’s prisons.
20.05.2021 - Two journalists convicted, monthly suspended
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the unrelenting persecution of press freedom in Iran, of which the latest victims include Rozbeh Priri, a citizen-journalist based in the northwestern province of Eastern Azerbaijan. Priri learned on 12 May that a court in Tabriz, the provincial capital, had fined him 5 million tomans (1,500 euros) as a result of a Revolutionary Guard complaint accusing him of “false information” in his Instagram description of the beating his brother received when arrested and jailed last March. A civil society activist who was arrested while distributing Azeri-language books, his brother was hospitalised for ten days as a result of the beating.
Amin Masouri, a journalist based in Khorramabad, the capital of the western province of Lorestan, who edits the weekly Stinging with a Pen and the news site Shopi, was notified the same day that he has been sentenced to nine months in prison for “divulging information about fellow-detainees,” insulting the judicial system” and “provocative paintings about protests in November 2019.” Masouri was already sentenced to two years in prison on charges of “anti-government propaganda” and “insulting the Supreme Leader.” Imprisoned on 20 November 2020, he was released in March 2021 under a general pardon issued because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
GhilanOuja, a monthly published in the northern province of Gilan, has also been targeted by the authorities. The Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance cancelled its publication licence in mid-May, claiming that it was doing so “at the request of its editor” because of “economic difficulties.” This is not the first time that the authorities have targeted this monthly by pressuring its editor, Ahmad Zahedi Langroudi, to stop publishing it. Langroudi was arrested in Sowme'eh Sara, a town in Gilan province, during a ceremony on 26 December 2019 to pay tribute to a demonstrator killed during an anti-government protest the previous month. He was released on bail a month later but is still awaiting trial.
07.05.2021 – Proposed law would ban US and British journalists, media
A proposed law currently before the Iranian parliament would ban US and British journalists from entering Iran and would ban the Iranian media from reporting what US and British media publish. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns this latest censorship attempt and urges Iran’s parliamentarians to reject all the measures proposed in this bill.
The bill banning US and British reporters from Iran and the dissemination of US and British media content within Iran was submitted by 41 parliamentarians on 18 April although its existence was not announced until eight days later. According to the bill, these measures are justified because the US and British media have “taken many actions against national interests and against the Islamic Republic” including supporting sanctions, and because their journalists are “influential actors.”
07.04.2021 – Three imprisoned journalists denied appropriate treatment for Covid
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is appalled to learn that three imprisoned Iranian journalists who have almost certainly caught Covid-19 – Baktash Abtin, Reza Khandan Mahabadi and Kayvan Samimi Behbahani– are being denied appropriate medical attention. They must be freed at once, RSF says. Abtin, 48, was transferred to the infirmary of Tehran’s Evin prison on 4 April with a serious pulmonary condition that was confirmed by X-ray. He had been given a PCR test for Covid-19 three days before that and got a negative result. Mahabadi, 59, and Behbahani, 72, also have Covid-19 symptoms and their condition is also very worrying.
The editor of the monthly Iran Farda, Behbahani has been serving a three-year jail sentence since last August, following his arrest during a May Day demonstration outside the Iranian parliament in 2019 that was organized by independent labour unions. After a previous arrest in June 2009, he 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.
Abtin and Mahabadi are members of the Association of Iranian Writers who have been jailed since September 2020 along with a third member, Kayvan Bagen. All three are serving sentences ranging from three and half to six years in prison on charges of anti-government propaganda and illegally publishing an online newspaper on Facebook.
17.03.2021 - Sentence of photographer Raha Askarizadeh confirmed
Photojournalist and women's rights activist, Raha Askarizadeh was informed in early March that her sentence of two years in prison plus two years of ban on leaving the country and social media activity had been confirmed. Arrested in December 2019, she had been released on bail a month later pending trial. Two other photojournalists imprisoned last year, Alieh Motalebzadeh and Noushin Jafari, are serving three and five years in prison respectively.
23.02.2021 - Release of a journalist
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has learned of the February 8 release of journalist and documentary filmmaker Hassan Fathi. Aged 64, he had been imprisoned on 7 May 2020 and sentenced to one and a half years in prison for "disturbing public opinion by publishing false information" after giving an interview to the BBC in the Persian language in 2018. For the past ten months in detention, he was pardoned on the occasion of the 42nd anniversary of the Islamic Revolution in Iran.
19.02.2021 - Photojournalist arrested to serve 5-year jail term
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the arrest of Noushin Jafari, a photojournalist who specializes in covering cinema and theatre. She was suddenly arrested at her Tehran home on 17 February to begin serving the five-year prison sentence she received in October 2019, which has just been confirmed on appeal. “She was notified by the Tehran appeal court on 13 February and then, without any summons or warning, she was arrested and taken to Qarchak women’s prison,” said her lawyer, Amir Raisian. Qarchak is 40 km south of Tehran.
After her original arrest in August 2019 for having a Twitter account on which she “insulted Islam’s sacred values,” Jafari was held for two and a half months before being released on bail pending trial.
10.02.2021 - Journalists summoned, arrested or sentenced
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) regrets that journalists continue to be systematically subjected to summonses, arrests and sentences in Iran.
The latest victims include at least one of the six people whose arrest for “operating seditious channels on the Telegram messaging app” was announced on 3 February by the head of the FTA cyber-police in the northern province of Mazandaran. RSF has learned that the detainees include Mohammad Safar Lafouti, a journalist who reportedly works for several media outlets. The “seditious media” label is often used against independent journalists and news websites.
Freelance journalist Fariborz Kalantari was sentenced on 7 February to three years in prison and 74 lashes for using his Telegram channel to circulate articles about the corruption charges brought against Vice-President Eshaq Djahangiri’s brother, Mehdi Djahangiri, who was sentenced to two years in prison on 26 January on a charge of “professional trafficking in foreign currencies” to the amount of 607,100 euros and 108,000 US dollars (89,000 euros).
Several activists have received summonses from the FTA or from revolutionary courts in recent weeks. They include Hosein Razzagh, a leading social media activist, who reported in a tweet on 31 January that he had been summoned to appear before a Tehran revolutionary court on a charge of anti-government propaganda. He said he would not go because the priority should be trying “those responsible for killing people on the streets [during the November 2019 protests], crimes in the sky [shooting down the Ukrainian passenger jet in January 2020] and executing innocent people [...] they are the priority.”
05.02.2021 – Journalists arrested in two provinces, Kurdistan and Khuzestan
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns journalist Mahmoud Mahmoudi’s arrest on 31 January in Sanandaj, the capital of western Iran’s Kurdistan province. The editor of the weekly Agrin Rozh, he was arrested after criticizing a wave of arrests in the province, where at least 80 civil society activists have been placed in detention in different cities since the start of the year. He was provisionally released after the payment of a bond of 200 million tomans (approximately '200,000) pending his trial.
RSF has also learned that the citizen-journalist and civil society activist Shahab Nazari was returned to prison on 26 January to serve a one-year prison sentence. He reported in a tweet: “I must go to Evin prison. I have been convicted of anti-government propaganda as a result of a complaint by Revolutionary Guards in Khuzestan province [in the south of the country]. They convicted me for criticizing Khuzestan and Iranian government officials, posting photos of the young women of Revolution Street, and calling for the release of persons designated as ‘leaders of sedition’.”
In social media posts, Nazari had called for the release of Mir Hossein Mousavi, a former prime minister and owner of the now closed newspaper Kalameh Sabaz, Mousavi’s wife, the best-selling author Zahra Rahnavard, and Mehdi Karoubi, a former parliamentary speaker and owner of Etemad Melli, a newspaper that has also been closed. All three have been under house arrest for nearly ten years.
27.01.2021 – Journalist jailed for defending two human rights activists
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns journalist Reza Taleshian Jelodarzadeh’s arrest in Tehran on 13 January. The onetime editor of Sobeh Azadi, a weekly that was shut down in October 2011, he was taken to Greater Tehran Central Prison to begin serving the three-year jail sentence he received from a Tehran revolutionary court in June 2019 (and which an appeal court upheld a few months later). Convicted on charges of anti-government propaganda and “confusing online public opinion,” he was also sentenced to a fine of 40 million rials (800,000 euros) and a two-year ban on leaving the country and any political, journalistic or civil society activity. His crime was posting a photo of jailed workers’ rights activist Sepideh Gholian on his Instagram account. It showed Gholian and the meal of a small biscuit and an egg that she had been given in prison, and was captioned “A prisoner's share of food in the Islamic Republic.” He also defended journalist and women’s rights activist Masih Alinejad on his Telegram channel Avangar. Previously arrested in 2012, Jelodarzadeh suffers from a seriously illness that is the result of an injury sustained during the Iran-Iraq war of 1980-1988.
18.01.2021 - Three women journalists released
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has learned of the release of three women journalists in recent weeks. One is Negar Masoudi, a photographer and documentary filmmaker who was released on bail of 1.5 billion toman (3 million euros) on 9 January pending trial. She was arrested on 1 November for photographing the disfigured faces of women who were the victims of a wave of acid attacks in the central city of Isfahan in October 2014.
Nada Sabouri and Roghieh (Ashraf) Nafari were released after receiving pardons on 5 December in connection with Iran’s religious festivities. A former journalist and civil society activist, Sabouri was arrested by officials from the Tehran prosecutor’s office on 7 August 2020 and was taken to Evin prison to serve a sentence of three and a half years in prison. Nafari had been returned to prison in October to begin serving a three-month sentence for tweets criticizing the government’s handling of the Covid-19 crisis.