Matin-Pour (Permission by his family, ADAPP)
Permission from family, via ADAPP

Iran continues to target journalists

New York, August 3, 2011–The Committee to Protect Journalists is dismayed by news reports in Iran indicating that furloughed journalists are being summoned back to prison while new journalists continue to be convicted on manufactured charges. Reports of journalists’ deteriorating physical and mental health are equally disturbing. 

“That the legal rights of accused and imprisoned journalists in Iran are disregarded with regularity has been established beyond a doubt by scores of individual cases documented by CPJ and others,” said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, CPJ Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. “Multiple legal analyses have also outlined how the authorities are indifferent to the letter and the spirit of Iranian law in their vindictive pursuit of journalists who are viewed as political adversaries to be silenced or eliminated.”

Judicial authorities summoned Saeed Jalalifar to prison several days ago to await his yet-to-be-scheduled trial date in Evin Prison’s Ward 350, which is reserved for political prisoners, the BBC Persian service reported. Jalalifar, who was arrested in December 2009 and released in March 2010 on bail of US$100,000, used to work for the much-harassed Committee of Human Rights Reporters and is a Zanjan University student who was banned from continuing his education. The journalist’s mother told the Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) that her son turned himself in on Sunday to prevent his bail from being confiscated.

On July 24, Branch 28 of the Revolutionary Court sentenced Mehran Faraji to one year in prison on charges of “propagating against the regime,” HRANA reported. Faraji, who works for the daily Sharq, was first arrested in December 2010 and spent two months in Evin Prison’s Security Ward. He was released on bail of US$100,000 in February, according to news reports. The journalist had previously worked for the Iranian Student News Agency and the Iranian Labour News Agency, as well as for the newspapers Kargozaran, Farhang-e Ashti, and Etemad-e Melli

A recent interview with Atieh Taheri, the wife of Saeed Matin-Pour, a journalist whose brushes with the authorities long predate Iran’s mass roundup of journalists in June and July of 2009, reveals that the reporter’s health is deteriorating. Matin-Pour was first detained in 2007 and released on bail nine months later only to be rearrested in 2009. A revolutionary court found him guilty of “relations with foreigners and propagating against the regime” and sentenced him to an eight-year prison term, CPJ research shows. Throughout his time in custody, Matin-Pour suffered acute heart and respiratory problems and was routinely denied adequate care, his wife told HRANA in 2010. But in her most recent interview, Taheri said that her husband “has spinal problems which cannot be treated in the limited facilities of the prison infirmary.” She said that he has also suffered multiple heart attacks while in custody even though he had no heart conditions when he was first detained.

Judicial authorities, who in 2010 sentenced Mohammad Davari to five years in prison on trumped-up antistate charges after he documented allegations of rape and torture at the Kahrizak Detention Center, recently added another year of prison time to the journalist’s sentence in what CPJ called “the latest example of vindictive government policies against critical journalists.” 

In a recent interview, Davari’s family members expressed concerns about his steadily deteriorating physical and psychological condition. Davari’s nephew, Hossein Davari, said that during the last family visit, the journalist “wasn’t in good psychological or physical shape.” He also said that “when relatives went to prison to see him several times, prison officials told them he is not able to take visitors. His lawyer also told us that he doesn’t have a good mental state. He said that we should make an appointment with a doctor of our choice so that they can take him for treatment from prison. He said that we should do something for him ourselves. In addition to his psychological state, he has had problems with his teeth for a long time.” In 2010, CPJ honored Davari with its International Press Freedom Award.                                                                                                                                  

In a recently published and damning legal analysis, Mehrangiz Kar, one of Iran’s foremost human rights lawyers, laid out the myriad legal statutes that are regularly disregarded by judicial authorities and said that Tehran prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi has turned the “absolute legal rights of Iranian political prisoners, imprisoned journalists, and prisoners of conscience” into special privileges that are only granted based on his “partisan interpretation of the laws.” She used Bahman Ahmadi Amouee’s case to illustrate her point: Amouee, a journalist who was sentenced in January 2010 to seven years and four months’ imprisonment and 34 lashes for antistate activities in a politicized trial, has not been granted permission for a single in-person visit with his family. “Regular prisoners such as drug traffickers are routinely granted in-person visits, while Bahman Amouee has been deprived of them,” she wrote.