Downtown Tehran, Iran, is seen on July 10, 2019. Iranian authorities recently arrested exiled journalist Roohollah Zam. (WANA/Nazanin Tabatabaee via Reuters)

Iranian journalist in exile arrested, gives televised confession in Iran

October 16, 2019 10:32 AM ET

On October 14, 2019, intelligence agents of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps arrested journalist and activist Roohollah Zam, manager of Amad News, a popular anti-government news channel on the messaging app Telegram, according to a statement by the guard corps that was broadcast on state media.

The statement did not clarify how or where authorities arrested Zam; according to the state-run Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) the journalist was living in exile in France until his arrest. The statement said that Iranian intelligence agents “guided” Zam into the country, but did not elaborate.

The statement accused Zam of working with French, Israeli, and U.S. intelligence agencies.

Iranian state TV previously accused Zam of working with Iranian intelligence agencies in a March 2019 documentary, according to that ISNA report. Zam denied that allegation in an interview on Iran International, a U.K.-based broadcaster.

Shortly after the statement was disseminated, Iranian state TV aired a video, uploaded by the Iranian outlet Tasnim News Agency, which depicted Zam blindfolded in a car, and then featured Zam saying, “basically trusting any government is wrong, particularly those governments that show they don’t have good relations with the Islamic Republic, such as France, the U.S., Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey.”

Iranian authorities have previously used coercive measures to force televised confessions from subjects who later recanted their testimonies, according to CPJ research.

In 2009, Zam took part in the street protests against the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, after which he was briefly imprisoned before fleeing to Malaysia and then to France, according to that ISNA report.

Zam launched Amad News as a news website and Telegram channel in 2015; the website has been offline since 2017, but the Telegram channel now has about 1.4 million followers, according to CPJ’s review of the channel, which recently shared videos of labor protests and reports on alleged corruption among Iranian officials.

In 2017, Telegram shut down the channel at the request of the Iranian government, which accused it of “encouraging violence,” but it later reopened under a new name, Sedaie Mardom (People's Voice), according to ISNA.

After Zam’s confession was aired on state TV, a screenshot of the confession and the IRGC statement were posted to the Amad News telegram channel. CPJ could not determine who made those posts.

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