Washington, D.C., February 5, 2020 -- Iranian authorities should cease raiding journalists’ homes and should return all material confiscated in recent raids, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
On January 26 and February 3, intelligence agents of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, Iran’s political paramilitary force, raided the Tehran homes of journalists Maziar Khosravi, Yasaman Khaleghian, Moloud Hajizadeh, and Yaghma Fakhshami, according to news reports and a person familiar with the cases who spoke to CPJ on the condition of anonymity, citing fear of reprisal.
The agents confiscated documents and reporting equipment from the journalists’ homes, but did not make any arrests, according to those sources.
The raids came in the weeks before Iran’s parliamentary elections, which will be held on February 21, according to news reports.
“Raiding journalists’ homes in the run-up to an election shows that Iranian authorities are intent on stifling discussion and intimidating critics,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour. “If authorities want to show that the country’s elections are open and fair, they must allow journalists to work without fear that their homes will be raided and their equipment confiscated.”
On January 26, intelligence agents raided the home of Maziar Khosravi, a former political reporter and editor at the reformist newspaper Shargh Daily, according to a report by the exile-run news website IranWire. He is currently the editor-in-chief of the reformist Faraz Online digital newspaper, which often publishes content critical of the government, according to an interview the journalist gave to BBC Persian in September 2019.
Agents searched his home and confiscated Khosravi’s personal belongings, but did not state a reason for the raid, according to IranWire.
The person who spoke to CPJ on the condition of anonymity, who is close to Khosravi, said, “the agents had an arrest warrant for Khosravi, but changed their minds last minute. Instead they are taking him every day for interrogations.”
Khosravi was active on Twitter in the days before the raid, according to IranWire, but his account has since been suspended.
Also on January 26, intelligence agents raided the home of Yasaman Khaleghian, a freelance reporter who writes about social issues, according to a report by Iran International, a U.K.-based broadcaster. Authorities confiscated laptops, phones, books, notebooks, and her press credential during the raid, according to that report.
Khaleghian worked as a reporter at the semi-official Iranian Labour News Agency (ILNA) until March 2019, when she was fired after writing about a rape case and a deadly fire, according to Iran International.
The agents did not arrest her or declare a reason for the raid, according to the person close to Khosravi, who is also familiar with Khaleghian’s case.
On February 3, Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps agents raided the home of Moloud Hajizadeh, a reporter who covers women’s issues at Taadol Newspaper, according to a report by the International Federation of Journalists, a trade organization.
The agents took Hajizadeh to Taadol Newspaper’s offices and conducted a further search there, the report said. The agents confiscated Hajizadeh’s laptop, phone, and press credential, but did not arrest her or declare a reason for the raid, according to that report.
Authorities previously detained Hajizadeh in summer 2019 and released her on bail after charging her with “disturbing public opinions," according to a report by the exile-run Human Rights Activists News Agency. On December 3, 2019, she was sentenced to two years in prison, but has not been summoned to begin that sentence, according to that report.
Also on February 3, intelligence agents raided the home of Yaghma Fakhshami, a former reporter at the news website Didban Iran, and confiscated documents and his laptop and phone, according to the person who spoke to CPJ on the condition of anonymity, who is also familiar with Fakhshami’s case. The person said that the agents did not arrest Fakhshami or declare a reason for the raid.
Authorities previously arrested Fakhshami for his work in 2017, as CPJ documented at the time.
The person who spoke to CPJ on the condition of anonymity said that Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps agents told all four the journalists that they would be contacted for further questioning in the coming days.
CPJ emailed the press office of the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, which is responsible for supervising the Iranian press corps, but did not immediately receive a response.
Iran had 11 journalists in jail at the time of CPJ’s most recent prison census on December 1, 2019.