CPJ urges Iran to release journalists during Ramadan

New York, September 16, 2009—As Muslims worldwide prepare to celebrate the end of the holy month of Ramadan, a time of compassion and forgiveness, the Committee to Protect Journalists today called on the Iranian authorities to release journalists who are being held behind bars.

At least 22 journalists are now in Iranian prisons since being detained in the aftermath of the disputed June 12 presidential elections, according to CPJ research. Since then, the authorities have implemented harsh measures to silence critical voices. They have arrested thousands of protesters, censored the media, blocked Web sites, expelled and vilified foreign journalists and put dozens of detainees, among them journalists, on trial. CPJ research shows that the Iranian authorities have detained at least 70 journalists in ongoing sweeps since June 12.

“We are relieved that many of the journalists who were arrested in the aftermath of the elections are free and can celebrate the end of Ramadan with their families,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Mohamed Abdel Dayem. “We now call on the Iranian authorities to honor this occasion by releasing the remaining journalists.”

The following is a list of 22 journalists who were picked up in the aftermath of the elections and remain in jail as of September 16:

Morteza Alviri, affiliation unknown
DETAINED: September 8, 2009
Alviri, a journalist aligned with the defeated presidential candidate Mehdi Karroubi, was arrested by judiciary agents at his home, local press reported. His arrest came hours after security agents shut down Karroubi’s offices in Tehran, the U.S.-backed Radio Farda reported

Mohammad Davari, Saham News
DETAINED: September 5, 2009
Davari, editor-in-chief of Saham News, affiliated with the defeated candidate Mehdi Karroubi, was arrested on September 5, the Web site reported. Details of his arrest are not available.

Fariba Pajooh, freelance
DETAINED: Mid-August 2009

Pajooh was arrested in mid-August, according to a September 7 article posted by the Iran Human Rights Center. Details of her arrest are not available. The organization reported that on September 7 she contacted her family to inform them that she was being held at Evin Prison. Pajooh has worked for reformist outlets such as Etemad e Melli and the Iranian Labour News Agency.

Reza Nourbakhsh, Farhikhtegan
DETAINED: August 4, 2009
Nourbakhsh, editor-in-chief of Farhikhtegan, an evening newspaper, was arrested on August 4, according to the Association of Iranian Journalists. The association said that officers searched Nourbakhsh’s house and office and then took him away.

Marjan Abollahian , Hamshahri
DETAINED: July 9, 2009

Photo editor Abdelhayn was arrested on July 7, according to the BBC Persian service. She works for the Tehran-based Hamshahri newspaper, according to local news reports.

Massoud Bastani, Jomhoriyat
DETAINED: July 5, 2009

Bastani, husband of formerly detained journalist Mehsa Amrabadi, was arrested when he went to a Tehran court seeking information about his wife’s whereabouts, according to multiple local news reports. He works for Jomhoriyat, a news Web site affiliated with the defeated reformist candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi. His wife, Amrabadi, was arrested along with two other journalists on June 15. Amrabadi was released on August 25. Bastani is among more than 100 opposition figures, including journalists, who are on trial in mass proceedings and facing various charges, according to news reports.

Issa Saharkhiz, freelance
DETAINED: July 3, 2009

Saharkhiz, a freelance journalist and founding member of the Association of Iranian Journalists, was arrested while traveling in northern of Iran, the association said in a statement. It also reported that the family has been informed of the arrest by phone. Saharkhiz is the former director of the press department at the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance and is a supporter of defeated presidential candidate Mehdi Karroubi, according to news reports. On September 2, he called his family to inform them that his detention order has been extended for two more months, Rooz Online reported.

Hangameh Shahidi , blogger
DETAINED: June 30, 2009

Shahidi, a blogger and contributor to reformist newspapers, was arrested on June 30, according to local news reports. The details of her arrest are unknown.

Abulfazl Abedini , freelance
DETAINED:  June 30, 2009

Abidini, a freelance journalist and human right activist, was arrested in Ahwaz in southwest Iran on June 30, according to the U.S.-backed Radio Farda. Security agents searched his house before taking him, the radio station reported. Abidini was also arrested last year after he reported on a strike by workers at a factory in Ahwaz.

Fatemeh Khavari, Chragh
DETAINED: June 22, 2009

Khavari, director of the weekly newspaper Chragh, was arrested on June 22, according to press reports. Details of her arrest are not available.

Name unknown, Kalameh Sabz
DETAINED: June 22, 2009

Police initially detained 25 staffers from Kalameh Sabz, a newspaper owned by defeated presidential candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi. Ayande News, a self-described independent news Web site, reported on June 29 that most had been released. One unidentified staffer, who works for Kalameh Sabz’s Web site, is believed to still be in custody, according to the Association of Iranian Journalists.

Maziar Bahari, Newsweek
DETAINED:  June 21, 2009

Security agents arrested Bahari, Newsweek‘s Tehran correspondent, the magazine reported. The officers, who did not identify themselves, took Bahari’s laptop and several videotapes, according to Newsweek.  On June 30, the semi-official Fars News agency posted an 11-page “confession” from Bahari in which he allegedly blames Western media groups for the unrest that followed the presidential elections. On July 15, more than 100 prominent journalists from 47 countries sent a petition to the Iranian government calling for his immediate release.

Bahman Ahmadi Amooee, affiliation unknown
DETAINED: June 19, 2009

Amooee was arrested with his wife, Zhila Bani-Yaghoub, editor-in-chief of the Iranian Women’s Club, a news Web site focusing on women’s rights, on June 29, the U.S.-funded Radio Farda reported. Bani-Yaghoub was released on bail on August 19, according to the BBC Persian service. Amooee remains in prison.

Muhammad Ghouchani, Etemad e Melli
DETAINED: June 19, 2009

Ghouchani, editor-in-chief of Etemad e Melli , which is owned by defeated presidential candidate Mehdi Karroubi, was arrested on June 19 by intelligence agents, the BBC Persian service reported. On June 30, Javan, a newspaper aligned with President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, published a “confession” allegedly by Ghouchani that identified him by his initials. The newspaper reported that Ghouchani confessed to having been trained in a Persian Gulf country in preparation for a revolution.

Saeed Laylaz , Sarmaia
DETAINED: June 17, 2009

Lilaz, a journalist for the daily business journal Sarmaia and a vocal critic of President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad’s economic policy, was arrested in his home on June 17, his wife, Sepharnaz Panahi, told the BBC Persian service. She said that officers searched their home and confiscated videotapes, hard drives, and letters. The family doesn’t know where Lilaz is being held, the BBC reported. Sarmaia also reported the arrest. Lilaz is among more than 100 opposition figures, including journalists, who are being tried en masse and are facing various charges, according to local and international news reports.

Karim Arghandehpour, blogger
DETAINED: June 17, 2009

Arghandehpour, a journalist who blogs at Futurama, was arrested on June 17, according to news reports. Arghandehpour wrote for the now-defunct reformist newspapers Salaam and Vaghaa-ye-Ettefaaghyeh, according to Tehran Bureau, a news Web site. 

Mohammad Ali Abtahi, blogger
DETAINED: June 16, 2009

The well-known blogger Abtahi, an adviser to the defeated presidential candidate Mehdi Karroubi and vice president during Mohammad Khatami’s presidency, was arrested on June 16, the BBC Persian service reported. A blog entry on his site states that he will resume writing as soon as he is released. His wife, Fatima Abtahi, told the BBC that three men in plainclothes visited their home in Tehran and took him away. Abtahi is among those who are on trial various charges, according to local and international news reports.

Mahdi Hossein-Zadeh, Hambastegy
DETAINED: Mid-June 2009

Hossein-Zadeh, a journalist with the economic section of the reformist newspaper Hambastegy, was arrested in mid-June, Mouj Azadi, a reformist news Web site, reported on September 3.

According to the article, Hossein-Zadeh is currently being held in Evin Prison and his family has been able to see him twice. He is the former editor-in-chief of Tawsu’a newspaper and has worked for Etemad e Melli.

Ahmad Zaid-Abadi, Rooz Online
DETAINED:  Mid-June 2009  

Zaid-Abadi, a well-known journalist who writes a weekly column for Rooz Online, a Farsi and English reformist news Web site, was arrested in mid-June in Tehran. Zaid-Abadi is also the director of the Organization of University Alumni of the Islamic Republic of Iran and a supporter of the defeated candidate Mehdi Karroubi. Mahdieh Mohammadi, Zaid-Abadi’s wife, was able to see him after 53 days in custody, according to Deutsche Welle radio. She said he told her that he was being held in inhumane condition. Zaid-Abadi is among more than 100 opposition figures, including journalists, who are on trial and face various charges, according to local and international news reports.

Shiwa Nazar-Ahari, blogger
DETAINED: June 14, 2009

Nazar-Ahari, a blogger and a member of the Committee of Human Rights Reporters, a local watchdog group, was arrested by intelligence agents in her Tehran office on June 14, the committee reported.

Kayvan Samimi , Nama
DETAINED: June 14, 2009

Samimi, manager of the now-defunct monthly magazine Nama, was arrested on June 14 in Tehran, according to multiple online articles. He is being held in Evin Prison, according to news reports.

Omid Salimi, Nesf e Jehan
DETAINED: June 14, 2009

Salimi, a photographer who worked for Nesf e Jehan newspaper in Esfahan, was arrested on June 14 after he was summoned to a Revolutionary Guard office to pick up belongings that had been confiscated during an earlier arrest, according to Human Rights and Democracy Activists in Iran, a local human rights watchdog. Salimi was also detained in December 2008 and spent three months in prison for unspecified charges. He was transferred to Evin Prison on July 7, according to the Iranian Human Rights Activists New Agency.


The following journalists have been in jail since before the June 12 crackdown:

Saeed Matin-Pour, Yar Pag and Mouj Bidari
DETAINED: July 12, 2009

Matin-Pour was initially arrested in May 2007 after he visited Turkey, and was released on bail after nine months. He was re-jailed in July when a revolutionary court in Tehran convicted him of having “relations with foreigners and propagating against the regime,” according to local news reports. The journalist worked for Yar Pag and Mouj Bidari newspapers in Azerbaijan province, western Iran, in addition to writing his own blog, according to local news reports.

Hossein Derakhshan, blogger
DETAINED: November 2008
Derakhshan, an Iranian-Canadian who is widely credited for developing software that enabled Farsi speakers to blog in their native tongue, was arrested in November. The exact date of his arrest is unknown, but the news first appeared on November 17 on Jahan News, a news web site that is close to the Iranian intelligence apparatus. Jahan News reported that Derakhshan had confessed “spying for Israel” during the preliminary interrogation. The crime carries the death penalty. Ali Reza Jamshidi, spokesman for the Iranian judiciary, confirmed in a press conference on December 30 that Derakhshan had been arrested in connection with remarks he allegedly made about a top Shiite cleric, according to local and international news reports. 

Mojtaba Lotfi, freelance
DETAINED: October 8, 2008

A clergyman and a blogger, Lotfi was arrested by security forces on a warrant issued by the Clergy Court in Qom. Authorities accused him of publishing the views of Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri, who has criticized Ahmadinejad’s positions. Authorities did not specify particular articles or publications in which the views were supposedly cited. A court in Qom convicted Lotfi of several charges, including the spread of antistate information, and sentenced him to four years in prison, according to news accounts published November 30. 


Mohammad Seddigh Kaboudvand, Payam-e Mardom
DETAINED: July 1, 2007

Plainclothes security officials arrested journalist and human rights activist Kaboudvand at his Tehran office, according to Amnesty International and CPJ sources. He was being held at Evin Prison in Tehran. Authorities accused Kaboudvand, head of the Human Rights Organization of Kurdistan and managing editor of the weekly Payam-e Mardom, of acting against national security and engaging in propaganda against the state, according to his organization’s Web site. Tehran’s Revolutionary Court sentenced him to 11 years in prison.


Adnan Hassanpour, Aso
DETAINED: January 25, 2007

Security agents seized Hassanpour, a journalist and former editor for the now-defunct Kurdish-Persian weekly Aso, in his hometown of Marivan, in Kurdistan province, according to news reports. A Revolutionary Court convicted him in July 2007 of endangering national security and engaging in propaganda against the state, one of his attorneys, Sirvan Hosmandi, told CPJ. Hassanpour was sentenced to death. A court of appeals overturned the death sentence in September 2008 and ordered a new trial on charges of “working for outlawed parties” and espionage, according to the BBC and a CPJ source. 


Mohammad Hossein Fallahiyazadeh, Al-Alam
DETAINED: November 1, 2006

Authorities arrested Fallahiyazadeh, 33, on November 1, 2006, and transferred him to Tehran’s Evin Prison, according to the Iran-based human rights group Human Rights Activists in Iran . His detention stemmed from his reporting on the government’s harsh treatment of Iranian-Arab protesters in the Khuzestan provincial capital, Ahwaz, the group said. A Revolutionary Court convicted him during closed proceedings and sentenced him to a three-year prison term for spreading propaganda against the Islamic regime and for communicating with opposition groups, according to Human Rights Activists in Iran and Amnesty International. Fallahiyazadeh, who belongs to Iran’s Arab minority, was denied access to a lawyer, the groups said.