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A newspaper stand is seen in Tehran, Iran, on July 8, 2019. Newspaper columnist Hossein Ghadyani was recently sentenced to six months in prison for an Instagram post. (AFP)

Iran sentences conservative columnist Hossein Ghadyani to 6 months in prison for Instagram post

September 6, 2019 1:45 PM ET

Washington, D.C., September 6, 2019 -- Iranian authorities should release journalist Hossein Ghadyani from prison and stop jailing and harassing government critics, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

Yesterday, the Tehran Court of Appeals sentenced Ghadyani, a columnist for the conservative state-run daily Javan, to six months in prison on a charge of “insulting government officials” according to news reports. The charge stemmed from an Instagram post Ghadyani wrote in November 2017, which authorities said accused Shahindokht Molaverdi, a government official and ally of President Hassan Rouhani, of belittling a religious ceremony, according to a report by Javan. Ghadyani deleted the post a few hours after publishing it, according to that report.

The Tehran Criminal Court originally sentenced Ghadyani to a six-month suspended sentence on June 26, 2018, which was in appeal until yesterday, when the court revoked the suspension because Ghadyani “did not apologize for his criminal behavior” and “did not take any effort to reduce the effect of his crime,” according to the verdict cited in those news reports. Ghadyani started serving his sentence yesterday and cannot appeal the court’s verdict, according to those reports.

“Sentencing Hossein Ghadyani to prison on appeal shows that Rouhani’s critics, even those who support the supreme leader, are not safe from the authorities’ arbitrary reach,” said Sherif Mansour, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. “We call on Iranian authorities to immediately release Ghadyani and stop using journalists as pawns in their inter-factional rivalries.”

Ghadyani previously wrote for conservative publications aligned with Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, including Kayhan, Resalat, and Vatan-e Emrooz, according to Javan. Following his sentencing in June 2018, he continued to write columns critical of Rouhani in Javan.

In 2014, Iran's Supreme National Security Council sued Ghadyani and his then employer, Vatan-e Emrooz, for publishing articles critical of Rouhani and Iran's nuclear negotiations, and which alleged corruption in the government's dealings with an oil company, as CPJ reported at the time. Those charges were dropped in 2016, according to news reports.

At least eight journalists were imprisoned for their work in Iran as of December 2, 2018, according to CPJ’s annual prison census.

[Editor's Note: This post has been corrected to show that it was published on September 6.]

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