Iran continues its campaign against the press

New York, March 29, 2012–Iranian authorities have imprisoned two additional journalists as part of their three-year-long crackdown on the press, according to news reports. In addition, the BBC reported that its Web services had been targeted by a distributed denial-of-service attack, which the broadcaster believed originated from the Iranian regime. 

“Iranian authorities are using all manner of tactics, many of them brutal, to silence critical journalists, but news of the regime’s sustained oppression continues to reach the world,” said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. “It is time for Iran to end this indefinite crackdown and allow independent voices to be heard.”

Iranian legal proceedings are marked by secrecy, but word of the two new detentions emerged in recent news reports. Security forces arrested Tahmineh Monzavi, an award-winning freelance photographer, at her workplace in the capital, Tehran, on February 19, and searched her home, reformist news websites said. The journalist has documented sensitive social issues in the country like homelessness and drug addiction. Authorities did not disclose her whereabouts, legal status, or health condition.

Nazanin Khosravani, a political columnist for several now-banned reformist newspapers, was summoned to Tehran’s Evin Prison in early March to serve the six-year prison term she was handed in February 2011 on charges of “assembly and collusion against national security” and “propagating against the regime,” according to news reports. Khosravani was arrested in November 2010 and spent 132 days in prison with much of her time in solitary confinement, the reports said.

Also this month, the BBC was targeted by a “sophisticated cyber-attack” that caused disruptions in its email and Internet services, the broadcaster reported. The BBC’s director general, Mark Thompson, said the Internet attack “coincided with efforts to jam two of the service’s satellite feeds into Iran.” The regime has targeted the BBC Persian-language service in the past by jamming its satellite signal and arresting and harassing relatives of its staff members in Iran, CPJ research shows.

The health of several Iranian journalists has also deteriorated in prison.

  • Mohammad Davari, a journalist who was sentenced in 2010 to five years in prison on antistate charges, developed an acute psychological illness and suffered from chest pains, his brother told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran (ICHRI) in March.

  • Kayvan Samimi, a journalist jailed since 2009 on antistate charges, was hospitalized in early March with liver complications, Iran’s Committee of Human Rights Reporters said.

  • In early February, a Revolutionary Court judge refused a furlough request for online journalist Hossein Ronaghi Maleki to seek medical treatment for a kidney disease he developed in prison, reformist news websites said. Maleki was sentenced in 2010 to 15 years in prison on antistate charges.

  • The wife of Ehsan Houshmand, a journalist who was arrested in early January and accused of “propagating against the regime,” told the ICHRI in March that she had not been allowed to visit her husband in Evin Prison and that he had told her on the phone that he suffered from ear, knee, and leg aches and that his requests to go to the infirmary were ignored.

Iran has maintained a revolving-door policy for imprisoning journalists, freeing some detainees on furloughs even as they make new arrests. When CPJ conducted its annual prison census on December 1, 2011, Iran was holding 42 journalists in custody, the most in the world.