Ebrahim Raisi, head of Iran's judiciary attends the Interior Ministry to register his candidacy for the June 18 presidential elections at the elections headquarters of the Interior Ministry in Tehran, Iran, Saturday, May 15, 2021. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

Iranian journalist Najaf Mehdipour imprisoned with no charges disclosed

Washington, D.C., May 24, 2021 — Iranian authorities must immediately release journalist Najaf Mehdipour, known as Kaveh, and stop arbitrarily arresting members of the press, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. 

On May 18, authorities in the eastern city of Darreh Shahr, in Ilam province, arrested Mehdipour, a freelance journalist, at his home and the following day transferred him to a local prison, according to reports by the exile-run Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) and SedayehZendani, a website that covers detained journalists and activists in Iran.

Those reports said the reason for the journalist’s arrest had not been disclosed.

“Iranian authorities must free journalist Najaf Mehdipour immediately and unconditionally, and cease locking up members of the press for unspecified alleged crimes,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Senior Researcher Justin Shilad, in New York. “If Iran wants its judicial system to have even a modicum of credibility, it cannot continue to imprison journalists without disclosing the charges.”

Mehdipour worked as the editor-in-chief of the Bakhter Zamin magazine, which covered politics, social and cultural, and human rights issues before it was suspended in 2018 for publishing articles critical of Iran’s leaders and alleged human rights abuses, according to HRANA and SedayehZendani. Since then, he has contributed op-eds and commentary to various Persian-language outlets, according to CPJ’s review of his recent publications.

Mehdipour was previously imprisoned from July 6, 2019, to February 25, 2020, after being convicted of “insulting the supreme leader” and “spreading propaganda against the regime,” according to HRANA and the Campaign for the Defense of Political and Civil Prisoners advocacy group. He was not included on CPJ’s 2019 prison census, as CPJ was not aware of his case at the time.

Iran’s presidential elections are scheduled for June 18; CPJ has documented that authorities have repeatedly cracked down on the press in the run-up to previous regional and national elections.

Separately, in recent weeks, agents with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the head of Tehran’s Media Court, and the Security and Cyber Police have contacted journalists, newsrooms, and media workers and ordered them not to report any content criticizing conservative presidential candidate Ebrahim Raisi, who is currently the head of the country’s judiciary, according to multiple posts on social media by Iranian journalists.  

CPJ was unable to find contact information for the Ilam province judiciary because the body’s website was down. CPJ called Tehran’s judiciary for comment, but no one answered.