Iran arrests another journalist in campaign against the press

New York, March 4, 2013–Iranian authorities arrested another journalist this weekend as part of a broad crackdown aimed at intimidating the press before Iran’s presidential election in June. Mohammad Javad Rouh, editor for the reformist monthly magazine Mehrnameh, was arrested in his home in Tehran on Sunday, according to news reports.

“The arrest of Mohammad Javad Rouh is another milestone on the road to censorship of pre-election coverage,” said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney. “Iranians have a clear right in international law to receive information ahead of a democratic election. The government must cease its intimidation through detention and release all journalists currently behind bars.”

The latest wave of arrests began on January 27, what is now called “Black Sunday,” when authorities detained at least 14 journalists affiliated with reformist news outlets. In all, at least 19, including Rouh, have been detained in the past five weeks. At least five are still being held, along with dozens of other journalists who have been held for months or years.

Two weeks ago, the Iranian Intelligence Ministry threatened even more arrests in a claiming the journalists were part of a spy ring affiliated with the BBC. The Iranian government has frequently made such baseless accusations as an excuse for repressing local dissidents. Iranian human rights groups fear that some of the journalists have been forced to give false confessions as part of the spy investigation.

Iran has maintained a revolving-door policy for imprisoning journalists, freeing some detainees on furloughs even as new arrests are made. In its December 2012 prison census, CPJ found that Iran was the world’s second-worst jailer of journalists, with 45 journalists imprisoned in reprisal for their work. The threat of imprisonment has led scores of Iranian journalists to flee into exile in recent years.