A newspaper stand is seen in Tehran, Iran, on August 15, 2020. Iranian journalist Nooshin Jafari recently began a four-year prison sentence. (AFP)

Iranian journalist Nooshin Jafari begins 4-year jail term on propaganda and insult charges

New York, February 18, 2021 – Iranian authorities should immediately release Nooshin Jafari and stop imprisoning members of the press for their work, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

On February 16, police arrested Jafari at her home in Tehran and took her to the city’s Qarchak Prison to begin serving a four-year sentence, according to the Iranian exile-run news websites IranWire and the Human Rights Activists News Agency.

Police initially arrested Jafari, then a cinema and theater photographer covering cultural issues for several Iranian magazines, in August 2019 after pro-government social media accounts accused her of running a Twitter account that opposed the Iranian government, as CPJ documented at the time.   

She was sentenced to one year in prison for “spreading anti-establishment propaganda” and four years for “insulting sanctities,” in a case that remained in appeal until February 13, 2021, when a Tehran appeals court upheld that conviction and imposed a four-year total sentence, according to IranWire and Emtedad News, a news outlet run by the reformist Union of Islamic Iran People Party. CPJ was not able to determine the date of her initial conviction and sentence.

 “Instead of trying to rehabilitate its international image, Iran has instead created a revolving cell door policy with regards to imprisoning journalists,” said CPJ Senior Middle East and North Africa Researcher Justin Shilad. “Iranian authorities must free Nooshin Jafari immediately and stop imprisoning the country’s journalists on baseless charges.”

Amir Raisian, Jafari’s lawyer, told Emtedad News that the journalist was imprisoned without ever receiving an official summons, which he said could have been because authorities feared she would flee the country before they could detain her.

Jafari was previously arrested in 2009, when she was working at the reformist daily newspaper Etemad as an arts and culture reporter, as CPJ documented at the time.

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