In Iran, journalists accused of espionage, sentenced to prison

Iranian government-run media outlets in mid-August 2015 accused Farnaz Fassihi, a New York-based senior reporter for the Wall Street Journal, of being a liaison between the U.S. government and the opposition. After Kayhan, a newspaper closely associated with the Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, accused Fassihi of conspiring against the Iranian government, the Supreme Leader-affiliated newspaper Resalat and Tasnim, a news agency closely associated with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, followed suit with similar claims.

The Wall Street Journal criticized the reports as “completely false, outlandish and irresponsible,” on August 19, 2015. The Journal‘s statement said the accusations appeared to be based on an August 9, 2015, opinion piece in Forbes magazine that referred to a “Wall Street friend” of a New York senator, who it said had been asked to pass information from the Iranian opposition inside Iran to the U.S. government.

“Some Iranian media entities have falsely labeled Ms. Fassihi as the alleged liaison by incorrectly and illogically claiming the ‘Wall Street friend’ reference in the piece actually meant ‘The Wall Street Journal,'” the Wall Street Journal statement said.

In June 2015, Iranian cartoonist Atena Farghadani was sentenced to 12 years and nine months in prison, according to Iranian media. Mohammad Moghimi, Farghadani’s lawyer, told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran that the cartoonist was convicted of “assembly and collusion against national security” in connection with a cartoon she sketched of Iranian parliament members. In the cartoon, Farghdani depicted the politicians as monkeys, cows, and other animals and published it on her Facebook page.

In August 2015, Cartoonist Rights Network International honored Farghadani with its 2015 Courage in Editorial Cartooning award.

Separately, in August 2015, Kim Ghattas, a Washington State Department correspondent for the BBC, was granted a journalist visa to spend one week in Iran, according to news reports. The BBC was one of more than a dozen foreign media organizations that were offered access following the landmark nuclear deal between Iran and the world powers, according to the semi-official Fars News Agency.

According to the Guardian, Ghattas’ journalist visa was the first granted to a BBC correspondent in Iran in six years. The report said that the last BBC correspondent in Iran was Jon Leyne, who was asked to leave the country on June 21, 2009, days after Mahmoud Ahmedinejad won the presidential election.