A newspaper stall is seen in Tehran, Iran, on August 15, 2020. Iranian journalist Kayvan Samimi recently began a jail term in retaliation for his work. (AFP)

Iranian journalist Kayvan Samimi begins 3-year jail term over protest coverage

Washington, D.C., August 24, 2020 — Iranian authorities should release journalist Kayvan Samimi from prison immediately and cease arbitrarily jailing members of the press, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

Samimi, 72, editor-in-chief of the center-left Iran-e-Farda magazine, began a three-year sentence today in Tehran’s Evin Prison, after his prior conviction on charges of “colluding against national security” was upheld by the Tehran Appeals Court on July 27, according to news reports, a copy of the journalist’s jail summons published by Amsterdam-based Iranian media outlet Radio Zamaneh, and a person familiar with the situation, who spoke to CPJ on the condition of anonymity, citing fear of reprisal.

“Subjecting an elderly journalist to prolonged detention in the midst of a pandemic on unsubstantiated charges is inhumane and yet another example of Iran’s complete disregard for the work and safety of the press,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour. “We call on the Iranian authorities to release Kayvan Samimi immediately.” 

Samimi was arrested on May 1, 2019, while covering a Labor Day demonstration in front of the parliament building in Tehran, as CPJ documented at the time.

He spent 17 days in detention before being released on bail, according to a report by the exile-run Human Rights Activists News Agency. In April 2020, Tehran Judge Iman Afshari convicted Samimi of “colluding against national security” and “spreading propaganda against the system” over his coverage of the protests and sentenced him to six years in prison, at a hearing without the journalist or his lawyer present, according to that report.

Samimi disputed that verdict and requested a new trial, which was convened on May 18; he was again convicted of collusion, but the propaganda charge was dropped and his sentence was reduced to three years in prison, according to the Human Rights Activists News Agency and other news reports.

CPJ was unable to find contact information for the Iranian judiciary on the body’s website. CPJ emailed the Iranian mission to the UN, but did not receive any response.