Iran continues its campaign against journalists

New York, January 20, 2012–The Committee to Protect Journalists is alarmed by the most recent spate of press freedom violations in Iran and calls on authorities to immediately reverse its crackdown on the press. 

In the past two weeks, Iranian authorities have arrested seven journalists, CPJ research shows. The country was jailing 42 journalists when CPJ carried out its prison census on December 1. Authorities have also sentenced to death three Web technologists, and continue to mistreat imprisoned journalists by withholding medical care.

“Tehran is sending a message to the opposition media that dissent will be treated with a heavy hand,” said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. “Not only are Iranian authorities detaining more journalists but they also persist in mistreating those who have spent time in official custody.”

Iran has maintained a revolving-door policy for imprisoning journalists, freeing some detainees on furloughs even as they make new arrests.

Recent press freedom violations in Iran

  • On Wednesday, security forces arrested Sahamoddin Boureghani, a photojournalist with the reformist dailies Shargh and Etemad, in his Tehran home, according to the reformist news website Kaleme. Boureghani is the son of the late reformist and former National Press Director Ahmad Boureghani, who worked in Iran’s Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance during former President Mohammad Khatami’s reign. Officials searched the journalist’s home and took him to an unknown location, Kaleme reported. CPJ was unable to obtain further information about his condition or whereabouts, or the charges against him.
  • Security forces in Tehran arrested Marzieh Rasouli, writer for the arts and culture sections of Shargh and Etemad, on Tuesday on charges of “acting against national security,” news reports said. Her belongings were confiscated, and she is being held in Evin Prison, news reports said.
  • On Sunday, Parastoo Dokouhaki, an online journalist for reformist newspapers, was arrested at her home in Tehran and accused of “acting against national security,” according to the BBC Persian service. She is being held in Evin Prison, and her belongings were confiscated, news reports said.
  • Security forces arrested Simin Nematollahi, a member of the religious minority Gonabadi Dervishes, a Sufi order, and contributor to its news website Majzooban-e Noor, according to news reports. On January 11, Nematollahi was accused of “propagating against the regime” and taken from her Tehran home to Evin Prison, Majzooban-e Noor reported. In September, at least 30 of the group’s members were arrested, and six of Majzooban-e-Noor‘s contributors remain imprisoned, CPJ research shows. In a September 12 article, Majzooban-e-Noor said agents had targeted the journalists in an effort to silence news coverage about the group.
  • On January 7, security officials arrested Fatemeh Kheradmand, contributor to the state-owned daily Hamshahri and other Persian-language magazines, and took her to Evin Prison, Kaleme reported. Kheradmand’s husband, Massoud Lavasani, was arrested in 2009 and sentenced to a two-year prison term, CPJ research shows. During his imprisonment, Kheradmand established contact with the families of imprisoned journalists and political prisoners. Lavasani told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran that security officials told him his wife had been arrested because of her contacts.
  • Ehsan Houshmand, a writer for Cheshm-Andaaz Iran, a bimonthly political magazine, was arrested on January 7 by six plainclothes individuals who introduced themselves as Drug Enforcement Police, Kaleme reported. CPJ was unable to obtain further information on Houshmand’s condition or whereabouts, or the charges against him.
  • Also on January 7, security forces arrested Saeed Madani, a former editorial board member of the long-defunct Iran-e Farda magazine and former editor-in-chief of the quarterly Refah-e Ejtemaee (Journal of Social Welfare), and confiscated a computer hard drive from his home, news reports said. CPJ was unable to obtain further information on the condition, whereabouts, or charges against Madani.
  • Three Web technologists have been sentenced to death in Iran, according to news reports. Web developer Saeed Malekpour and IT professionals Vahid Asghari and Ahmad Reza Hashempour were accused of hosting illegal content online, according to news reports. On Monday, the Supreme Court upheld the death sentence of Malekpour, who has been imprisoned since 2008, news reports said. Asghari, also imprisoned four years ago, was sentenced to death on January 7 by a Tehran Revolutionary Court, and Hashempour, imprisoned since 2007, received his death sentence this week by a lower court, news reports said.
  • Another journalist, who has previously been sentenced but was not in custody, was found guilty on separate charges on Sunday. A Tehran Revolutionary Court sentenced Ali Akbar Javanfekr, director of the official Iranian News Agency IRNA and its print affiliate Iran, and press adviser to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, to a one-year suspended prison term and a five-year ban on membership in press activities for “insulting the Supreme Leader,” news reports said. The charges stemmed from an article Javanfekr published on his blog questioning a decision made by the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. In November, he was sentenced to one year in prison and a three-year ban on press activities for publishing content “contrary to Islamic standards,” news reports said.
  • On January 10, reformist news website Advar News reported that journalist Issa Saharkhiz, who has been in prison since July 2009, was transferred to a hospital on December 14 for internal bleeding and surgery. The journalist’s family did not report his hospitalization for fear that his medical treatment would be cut short, Advar News said. Prison authorities have repeatedly denied the journalist’s requests for medical treatment, CPJ research shows. Saharkhiz was transferred back to Evin Prison on Tuesday, prior to the completion of his medical treatment, news reports said.
  • Online journalist Arash Honarvar Shojaei, who was granted a medical furlough in November, was returned to Evin Prison on January 9 before being able to complete his medical treatment, news reports said. The journalist suffers from a heart condition, a hearing impairment, epilepsy, brain atrophy, spinal disc problems, and diabetes. After he was forcibly sent back to prison, Shojaei embarked on a hunger strike to protest the prison authorities’ lack of regard for his deteriorating health, news reports said. He has been imprisoned since October 2010 and is serving a four-year sentence on antistate charges, CPJ research shows.
  • On December 21, imprisoned journalist Mohammad Reza Pourshajari was tried on charges of “insulting the Prophet of Islam” and “enmity with God,” which could result in the death penalty, according to news reports. His trial lasted only 15 minutes and he was not allowed to have a lawyer present, his daughter, Mitra Shajari, told local journalists. Pourshajari was arrested in September 2010 and sentenced to three years in prison on antistate charges stemming from articles he wrote against Islamic Sharia on his blog, according to CPJ research.