Iran continues crackdown: Anchor pressured, writers jailed

New York, January 4, 2010—The Iranian government continued an assault on the press as authorities have arrested at least six more journalists, upheld a long prison sentence against another, and barred a television anchor from returning to work. The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns these repressive actions and calls for the immediate release of all imprisoned journalists. 

Rouzbeh Karimi, a reporter with reformist daily Kargozaran and regular contributor to the reformist news Web sites Advar News, Rokhdad, and Feminist School was arrested along with his wife, Forough Mirzaee, at their Tehran home on Saturday, according to local news reports. His brother, Siamak, told Advar News that officials have disclosed no formal charges.

Mehrdad Rahimi, a journalistic blogger and member of the Committee of Human Rights Reporters, was arrested on Thursday and transferred to Evin Prison, according to Advar News. Rahimi has written numerous articles critical of the Iranian judiciary on his blog, Ghoghnoos.

Mohammad Reza Zohdi, editor-in-chief of the now-banned reformist daily Aria, Ali Hekmat, editor-in-chief of now-banned reformist daily Khordad, and Mahsa Hekmat, a reporter with reformist daily Etemad e Melli, were all arrested in Saveh, southwest of Tehran, on Friday, according to the BBC Persian service. Their whereabouts and legal status were not known.

Ahmad Reza Ahmadpour, who blogs on political issues, was arrested on December 27 in Qom, southwest of Tehran, according to the reformist news Web site Jonbesh-e Rah-e Sabz. A representative from the prosecutor’s office contacted his family the next day and informed them of his arrest, according to the same source.

Shahin Mahinfar, an anchor for the state-run Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), has been ordered not to return to work, the U.S.-based CNN reported. Mahinfar is under pressure to declare her son’s death, Amir Arshad Tajmir, an accident after he was struck by a car belonging to security forces during December 27 protests in Tehran, according to the reformist Web site Parleman News. The Web site Iran Human Rights News reported that authorities released Tajmir’s body to his family on January 2, a week after his death, and instructed the family to keep the funeral private. Police and armed security officers attended the funerals and photographed those who were present, the site reported. 

An appeals court on Sunday upheld Ahmad Zeid-Abadi’s conviction on charges of “spreading propaganda against the ruling Islamic establishment” according to news reports. A Revolutionary Court sentenced Zeid-Abadi in August to six years in prison and five years in exile in the remote desert town of Gonabad. It also imposed a lifetime ban on political activity.

“We condemn the harsh sentence given to Ahmad Zeid-Abadi and the vague charges on which he was convicted,” said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney “We call on the Iranian authorities to put an end to threats and attacks against journalists and free those who remain behind bars.”

The Iranian government intensified the arrests of journalists at the end of 2009. CPJ documented the arrests of several other journalists last week, including former International Press Freedom Award recipient Mashallah Shamsolvaezin. In an interview with Rooz Online on December 31, Shamsolvaezin’s wife said inquiries into her husband’s whereabouts and his legal status generated no information from authorities.

In the six months since the disputed presidential elections, dozens of journalists have been detained, opposition and critical Web sites have been blocked, and authorities have censored or shut down newspapers on several occasions.