Iranian regime continues to crack down on press

New York, April 17, 2012–Sustaining their years-long campaign against the press, Iranian authorities have sentenced one journalist to prison and summoned another to serve a jail term, according to news reports. The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on authorities to release imprisoned journalists who are being held away from their families and in deprivation.

A Tehran Revolutionary Court sentenced Reyhaneh Tabatabaie, a journalist for the reformist newspaper Shargh, to a one-year prison term on April 2 for alleged “propaganda against the state” and “weakening the pillars of the Islamic Republic,” according to a reformist news website. The court’s verdict said her offenses included reporting on the arrest of political prisoners after the 2009 presidential election, news reports said. Tabatabaie was arrested in December 2010 and released on bail a month later, the reports said. She has not been summoned to serve her sentence yet, the sources said.

On April 4, Mehran Faraji, a journalist who works for several reformist publications, was summoned to Evin Prison to serve a six-month prison sentence, according to news reports. He was arrested in December 2010 and released on bail two months later, news reports said. In July 2011, he was sentenced to a year in prison for “propagating against the regime,” but in November 2011, an appeals court reduced his sentence to six months and a five-year suspended prison term, news reports said.

“It’s bad enough that Iran imprisons any journalist who dares write down a critical thought,” said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney. “But it’s even worse that those in prison should be denied family visits and adequate medical attention. We call on the authorities to allow all imprisoned journalists family visitation rights and to release all those who are sick on humanitarian grounds.”

A number of other developments were reported in regards to journalists in prison.

  • Farshad Ghorbanpour, who wrote for several reformist news publications, has been denied family visits while in prison, his wife told the reformist news website Jonbesh-e-Rah-e-Sabz. The journalist has been in jail since security forces raided his Tehran home in December 2011, news reports said. He was first arrested in 2007 and released on bail a month later, reports said. Shortly after, on an unknown date, Ghorbanpour was sentenced by a Tehran Revolutionary Court to a one-year prison term and a US$5,000 fine for “acting against national security” by “propagating against the regime” and “earning illicit revenue” through cooperating with the reformist news website Rooz Online. Authorities did not disclose whether his current detention is related to his sentence.

  • Mohammad Davari, a journalist who was sentenced in 2010 to five years in prison on antistate charges and suffers from a heart condition, among other illnesses, in prison, was denied furlough for the third consecutive year, his brother told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran (ICHRI) on April 13. Authorities have imposed a bail of US$400,000, an amount his family is not able to raise, his brother said.

  • Ehsan Houshmand, a journalist who was arrested in early January and accused of “propagating against the regime,” suffered severe ear pain after being beaten during his interrogations, Nahid Kouhshekaf, his wife, told the ICHRI on April 3. Authorities told Houshmand his wife would be arrested if he publicized any information about his case or condition, Kouhshekaf said.

  • Family members of Saeed Madani, the editor of a banned reformist monthly, said he was in solitary confinement since his arrest in early January, his wife told the ICHRI in March. Madani’s wife also said their family had not been told of his condition in prison or any charges against him, the ICHRI reported.

  • Kouhyar Goudarzi, who writes for the Committee of Human Rights Reporters (CHRR), was freed on bail on April 12 after eight months in prison, CHRR reported. Goudarzi was sentenced in March to a five-year prison term on charges of “propagating against the regime” and “assembly and collusion against the regime,” according to CHRR. He was arrested in the summer of 2011 and held in solitary confinement in Evin Prison for more than 60 days, the report said. He was previously arrested in December 2009 and served a one-year sentence on similar charges, CPJ research shows. His mother, Parvin Mokhtare, who was also arrested in August for speaking to international press during her son’s imprisonment, was released in March, news reports said.

Iran authorities have 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.