Prison sentences for relatives of Iranian journalists
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the Iranian government’s harassment and persecution of the relatives of journalists, after the mother of an imprisoned journalist and the brother of a journalist living in self-imposed exile were given jail sentences within the space of two days last week.
Farangis Mazloom, the mother of Soheil Arabi, an imprisoned journalist who was awarded the RSF Press Freedom Prize in the citizen-journalist category in 2017, was sentenced to six years in prison by a Tehran revolutionary court on 14 July on charges of “meeting and plotting against state security” and “anti-government propaganda.”
The next day, another Tehran revolutionary court sentenced Alireza Alinejad, the brother of Masih Alinejad, a journalist and women’s rights activist living in the United States, to eight years in prison on the same two charges and a third charge of “insulting Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei,” his lawyer reported in a tweet.
Arrested in July 2019 after informing the public about the conditions in which her son was being held and protesting about the inhuman and degrading treatment he had been receiving, Mazloom was held in Tehran’s Evin prison until released provisionally in October pending trial.
Alireza Alinejad was arrested in September 2019, shortly after recording a video in which he reported that he and his parents were being pressured to publicly condemn his sister’s activities. His sister, who has lived in New York since 2009, posted thevideo online immediately after his arrest.
“This is not the first time the Iranian regime has tried to pressure journalists by persecuting their relatives,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “Can we imagine the degree of institutional abomination? Sentencing a brother to imprisonment because he refused to be an accomplice to his sister’s attempted abduction by the special services, or targeting a mother in the same way because she drew attention to the plight of her imprisoned and ailing son – this flouts all the obligations that a country has under international law, as well as the most basic institutional dignity.”
Masih Alinejad told RSF: “These charges were fabricated with the sole aim, of silencing me. My brother’s only crime was to have thwarted a plan by the Revolutionary Guards to abduct me in Turkey and take me back to Iran. My brother tipped me off and their plan failed.” From her base in New York, Alinejad has waged several video campaigns against laws requiring women to wear the hijab, including “My Stealthy Freedom,” and “White Wednesdays.” Her latest campaign, “Our weapon is our camera,” urges women to use their smartphones to record the verbal and physical violence to which they are subjected on the streets.
Her videos, which circulate widely social networks, have angered the regime and have elicited not only harassment and threats against her but also constant harassment and pressure on her family in Iran.
The Iranian authorities are known to abduct political activists and journalists. Gilan Noo news website editor Arash Shoa-e Shargh, who fled Iran after being convicted of “spreading false news” and “publishing without permission,” was abducted outside his home in Van, in eastern Turkey, on 5 February 2018 and resurfaced 25 days later in a prison in Iran. Rouhollah Zam, the editor of the AmadNews Telegram channel and website, was kidnapped in Iraq by Revolutionary Guards in October 2019 and was forcibly returned to Iran, where he was sentenced to death on 30 June.
Iran is ranked 173rd out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2020 World Press Freedom Index, three places lower than in 2019.