In this June 2, 2020 photo, journalist Roohollah Zam speaks during his trial at the Revolutionary Court in Tehran. Authorities sentenced Zam to death and on December 12, 2020, executed him. (Ali Shirband/Mizan News Agency via AP)

CPJ condemns Iran’s execution of journalist Roohollah Zam

New York, December 12, 2020 – The Committee to Protect Journalists condemned in the strongest possible terms the execution of Iranian journalist Roohollah Zam, editor of the Amad News Telegram channel. Iranian authorities executed Zam today by hanging, according to The Associated Press and Reuters, both citing government-affiliated news sources.

“With the execution of Roohollah Zam, Iranian authorities join the company of criminal gangs and violent extremists who silence journalists by murdering them,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour in Washington, D.C. “This is a monstrous and shameful act, and one which the international community must not let pass unnoticed.”

Zam’s website Amad News and a channel he created on the messaging app Telegram had spread embarrassing information about Iranian officials and the timings and locations of protests in 2017, AP reported.

Intelligence agents of the Islamic Republic Revolutionary Guards Corps arrested Zam in Baghdad, Iraq, on October 14, 2019, according to the state-run outlets Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) and Young Journalists’ Club. Zam, who had been living in France, traveled to Iraq through Jordan and was arrested upon his arrival in Baghdad, where he was held for more than one day, and then extradited to Iran, according to the BBC Persian Service.

Shortly after his arrest was announced, Iranian state TV aired a video, uploaded by the Iranian state-run outlet Tasnim News Agency, which depicted Zam blindfolded in a car, and then featured him apologizing for his actions and saying that “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.”

After Zam’s apology was aired, the guard corps’ statement and a screenshot from the video were posted to the Amad News Telegram channel. CPJ could not determine who made those posts.

On February 9, 2020, Branch 15 of Tehran’s Revolutionary Court announced 17 charges against Zam, including working with French, Israeli, and U.S. intelligence agencies; spreading false news and propaganda; acting against national security; insulting holy Islamic values, law enforcement agents, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and the late Ayatollah Khomeini; espionage; spreading corruption; collecting classified information; making income from illegitimate sources; encouraging people to break national order and security; collusion against national security; and creating and joining a disobedient or hostile group, according to reports by the exile-run news website IranWire and the Human Rights Activists News Agency, a U.S.-based outlet that covers Iran.

Zam’s trial began on February 9 and concluded on June 9, 2020, after six hearings, according to those reports, which stated that Zam pleaded not guilty and said he had only worked as a journalist and had not committed any crimes. 

On June 30, judiciary spokesperson Gholam Hossein Esmaili announced that Zam was sentenced to death, the state-run Young Journalists’ Club reported. He told reporters on December 8 that the Supreme Court had rejected Zam’s appeal.