Zaid-Abadi (Creative Commons)
Creative Commons

Iran abuses detained journalists, arrests others

New York, July 8, 2011The Committee to Protect Journalists is disturbed by the Iranian government’s persistent mistreatment of detained journalists as well as news reports that authorities have arrested two additional journalists in recent days. 

“We are profoundly disturbed by media reports and testimonies indicating that Iran’s prison and judicial authorities continue to engage in abusive and retaliatory tactics against detained journalists,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Mohamed Abdel Dayem. “Making matters worse, the authorities continue to detain new journalists at an alarmingly steady pace.” 

Hossein Ronaghi Maleki, the 26-year-old blogger who is currently serving the second year of a politicized 15-year prison sentence, developed kidney disease while in prison and has been suffering from related complications at least since April 2010, according to news reports. Ronaghi Maleki’s father told the U.S.-funded Radio Farda that his son is under sustained physical and psychological pressure “to confess” on television to crimes he has not committed. Ronaghi Maleki’s father also said that his son’s 376 days in solitary confinement led to his kidney complications. 

Ronaghi Maleki, who was arrested in December 2009, discussed politics in a series of critical blogs that were blocked by the government. He was also a founder of an anticensorship group known as the Iran Proxy, which was launched in 2003. After 10 months in “temporary detention,” he was sentenced to 15 years in prison on charges of “membership in the Internet group ‘Iran Proxy’, and propagating against the regime,” “insulting the Supreme Leader,” and “insulting the President.” An appeals court upheld his sentence.

Ronaghi Maleki was transferred to hospital in March and then again in May, where he underwent a kidney transplant. He was back in prison within 14 days, according to reformist news websites. Ahmad Maleki, the blogger’s father, told an opposition website that he petitioned authorities for medical furlough, but interrogators would not approve the leave. 

In an interview with the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, Mahdieh Mohammadi, wife of imprisoned journalist Ahmad Zaid-Abadi, expressed concern about her husband’s rapid weight loss since her last visit. “He said, ‘I have done all kinds of tests and there is no problem.’ But really, the tests from the prison infirmary, with its minimal facilities, cannot suffice,” she told the campaign. “I mean it is unprecedented that he suddenly lost so much weight.”

Zaid-Abadi was arrested on 14 June, 2009. In November 2009, he was sentenced to six years in prison, five years’ exile to Gonabad in Khorasan Province, and a “lifetime deprivation of any political activity” including “interviews, speech, and analysis of events, whether in written or oral form,” CPJ research shows. An appeals court upheld the sentence on January 2, 2010, according to Advar News. Zaid-Abadi won the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize 2011.

Two journalists have also been detained in recent weeks in separate incidents.

Photojournalist Maryam Majd was arrested on June 17, one night before she was scheduled to travel to Germany to cover the Women’s World Cup.  Her hosts in Germany reported her disappearance when she did not arrive on the flight they were expecting, Deutsche Welle reported.  Iranian judicial authorities refuse to explain why the journalist was detained. Majd is reportedly being held in solitary confinement at Evin Prison.

According to the Committee of Human Rights Reporters’s website, documentary filmmaker and women’s rights activist Mahnaz Mohamamdi was arrested on June 26 after security forces stormed her home.  Mohammadi’s charges remain unknown. In 2009, Mohammadi was arrested in the aftermath of the disputed presidential election when she and other documentary filmmakers were laying flowers on the graves of those killed during street protests.  She was also arrested in 2007 when she and other women’s rights activists gathered in front of the Revolutionary Court to protest security pressure and summonses for activists. Another CHRR article says that Mohammadi’s family has no information about her and she has not been permitted to contact them. The family is concerned for Mohammadi’s health, and it is unclear whether she has access to necessary medication. 

As of CPJ’s last annual census, on December1, 2010, Iran was the world’s leading jailer of journalists, tied with China, with 34 in prison. Iran continues to be among the world’s worst jailers of journalists.