Two journalists arrested, a third jailed for three years
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) deplores the arrests of two journalists at their place of work by intelligence officers and the jailing of a third journalist for three years, in the Iranian regime’s continuing persecution of media personnel in the past two weeks.
Plainclothesmen from the justice department’s intelligence protection section arrested Sasan Aghai, the deputy editor of the daily newspaper Etemad, at the newspaper on 11 August. Ten days later, they arrested Yaghma Fashkhami, a journalist with the Dideban e Iran news website, at his office.
Officials have not said why these two journalists were arrested or where they are being held. Aghai’s mother told Etemad that she had not been allowed to see him since his arrest.
Aghai has been arrested on several occasions in the past, one of them in a wave of arrests of journalists in Tehran in January 2013, when he spent 30 days in isolation in Section 209 of Tehran’s Evin prison. Fashkhami was previously arrested in December 2014, spending three months in isolation in Section 2A of Evin prison before being freed.
“Arresting journalists at their place of work poses a threat to media freedom and is way of imposing censorship on the entire press,” said Reza Moini, the head of RSF’s Iran/Afghanistan desk.
“The Iranian authorities must stop arresting journalists arbitrarily and holding them incommunicado. Detaining journalists in this way has no legal basis under Iranian law, as well as violating international standards.”
A Tehran revolutionary court meanwhile sentenced photojournalist and women’s rights activist Alieh Motalebzadeh to three years in prison on 12 August on a charge of “activity against national security.”
A contributor to the website of the “One Million Signatures” campaign for the repeal of laws that discriminate against women, she was arrested on 26 November 2016 and was freed on bail of 300 million toman (270,000 euros) the following month pending trial.
RSF also condemns the judicial system’s irresponsibility in refusing to release imprisoned journalists Henghameh Shahidi and Ehssan Mazandarani although they are very ill and their families describe their condition as critical.
Ranked 165th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index, Iran continues to be one of the world’s five biggest prisons for journalists and citizen-journalists, with a total of 28 held.