A police officer and others are seen in Tehran, Iran, on October 10, 2020. Authorities recently moved journalist Kayvan Samimi to prison to begin his three-year sentence. (WANA via Reuters/Majid Asgaripour)

Iranian journalist Kayvan Samimi begins 3-year prison sentence over protest coverage

Washington, D.C., December 8, 2020 — Iranian authorities must release journalist Kayvan Samimi from prison and cease jailing members of the press for their work, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

Yesterday, authorities arrested Samimi at the Evin Prison Sentence Enforcement Office, in Tehran, and took him to serve a three-year sentence at Evin Prison, according to reports by the exile-run Human Rights Activists News Agency and the London-based outlet Iran International.

Authorities arrested Samimi, now 72, on May 1, 2019, while he was covering labor protests for the Iran-e Farda magazine, where he worked as editor-in-chief, as CPJ documented at the time. He had been free on bail since June 17, 2019, while facing charges of “colluding against national security” and “spreading anti-establishment propaganda,” according to news reports.

“Jailing an elderly journalist in the middle of a raging pandemic shows how much contempt the Iranian judiciary has for the press,” said CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour. “Kayvan Samimi must be released immediately and unconditionally, as should all of the journalists being held in Iran in retaliation for their reporting.”

On April 20, Tehran’s Revolution Court tried Samimi in absentia, convicted him on those two charges, and sentenced him to six years in prison, according to a report by the U.S. Congress-funded broadcaster Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

Samimi appealed that sentence, and in a second trial on May 18, another court confirmed his conviction but reduced his sentence to three years, a decision that was upheld on further appeal on June 14, according to news reports.

In May 2019, after arresting him, security forces took Samimi to the offices of Iran-e Farda, searched the premises, and confiscated documents and computer hard drives, reports said.

Following Samimi’s arrest yesterday, Iran-e Farda publisher Hamed Sahabi announced that the publication was being banned by the state, the independent, exile-run news website IranWire reported.

Iran-e Farda was banned in Iran from April 2000 to May 2014, according to news reports. Samimi previously founded the political, cultural, and economic monthly Nameh in 2004, which authorities banned two years later, according to reports.

CPJ emailed Alireza Miryousefi, the head of the media office at Iran’s Mission to the United Nations, for comment on Samimi’s arrest, but did not receive any response.

Samimi was arrested in 2009 over his coverage of the contested presidential election, and served six years in prison, where he experienced health problems relating to his liver, according to CPJ research and news reports.