People are seen in Tehran, Iran, on May 20, 2020. Iranian journalist Ali Motaghian was recently convicted on false news charges. (West Asia News Agency/Ali Khara via Reuters)

Managing director of Iranian news agency convicted on false news charges

On May 31, 2020, Branch 6 of Tehran’s Media Court convicted Ali Motaghian, the managing director of the semi-official Iranian Students’ News Agency (ISNA), on charges of “spreading false news,” according to a report by the news agency.

CPJ could not determine what sentence Motaghian received or whether he is in custody. The semi-official Iranian Labour News Agency reported that the court determined he was not eligible for a reduced sentence, but did not specify the sentence he received.

Under Article 698 of Iran’s penal code and Article 6 of the country’s media law, Motaghian could face two months to two years in prison, 74 lashes, a cash fine, or any combination of those penalties, according to the official judicial news agency Mizan.

According to ISNA, the case stemmed from a complaint filed by the intelligence division of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps over an interview the news agency published with Ali Majedi, Iran’s former ambassador to Germany.

In the January 2019 interview, Majedi alluded to Iranian intelligence programs operating in Europe.

The complaint named Motaghian and Akram Ehghaghi, an ISNA reporter who conducted the interview, and accused them of “spreading false news to disturb public opinion,” according to the ISNA report.

Ehghaghi appeared in court the same day as Motaghian and was acquitted, according to a report by exile-run news website IranWire.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement one day after the interview was published, saying that Majedi discussed his personal opinions, and that the ministry disagreed.

CPJ emailed ISNA for comment but did not receive any response. CPJ could not determine contact information for Iran’s judiciary.