A man reads a newspaper in Tehran, Iran, on August 15, 2020. Journalist Nada Sabouri recently began a 3.5-year jail term for her work. (AFP)

Iranian journalist Nada Sabouri begins 3.5-year jail term in 2014 protest case

Washington, D.C., September 2, 2020 — Iranian authorities should release journalist Nada Sabouri immediately and cease arbitrarily jailing members of the press, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

On August 7, Sabouri, a freelance sports reporter, began a 3.5-year jail term at Tehran’s Evin prison, five years after she was originally sentenced, according to a report by the Human Rights Activists News Agency, a U.S.-based outlet that covers news in Iran, and news reports citing the journalist’s lawyer, Ali Mojtahedzadeh.

“The decision to imprison journalist Nada Sabouri years after she was originally sentenced, and at the height of a global pandemic, is unconscionable,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour. “If Nada Sabouri and her work were—as the authorities claim—such a great risk to society, they would have jailed her much sooner. Should Sabouri suffer any illnesses as a consequence of being detained, authorities must be held to account.”

In April 2014, authorities arrested Sabouri, then a reporter for the economic daily Kasbokar, while she was covering a rally on behalf of political prisoners at the presidential office in Tehran, according to one of her former colleagues, who spoke to CPJ on the condition of anonymity.

She was subsequently charged with “colluding against national security” and “disturbing public order,” according to news reports. She was briefly held in Evin prison and then released on bail, pending her trial, according to the colleague.

In February 2015, Sabouri was tried and convicted by Judge Abolqasem Salavati of Branch 15 of the Islamic Revolutionary Court in Tehran, and was sentenced to 3.5 years in prison; that sentence was upheld on August 5, 2015, by the Tehran Appeals Court, according to the colleague.

Iranian authorities have repeatedly sentenced journalists to lengthy jail terms but then released them on bail, leaving journalists technically free but silenced by authorities’ ability to summon them to being those sentences at any time, according to CPJ reporting.

CPJ called Tehran’s judiciary for comment, but no one answered.