An Afghan man walks at a refugee camp in Zahedan, Iran, on September 8, 2021. Iranian authorities recently arrested photojournalist Majid Saeedi while he was covering a refugee camp in the country. (Majid Asgaripour/West Asia News Agency via Reuters)

Iranian photojournalist Majid Saeedi arrested while covering Afghan refugee camps

Washington, D.C., September 13, 2021 — Iranian authorities should immediately release photojournalist Majid Saeedi, drop any charges against him, and let him work freely, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

On August 25, security forces in the city of Khoy, in West Azerbaijan province near the border with Turkey, arrested Saeedi, a photographer for the state-run newspaper Shargh Daily, while he was photographing camps housing Afghan refugees, according to reports by the Iranian semi-official news website Ensafnews and the U.S.-based Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA), and a person familiar with the case who spoke to CPJ on the condition of anonymity, citing fear of government reprisal.

Ensafnews reported that Saeedi “was arrested due to taking photos of forbidden border regions.” However, the journalist had permission from authorities to cover the refugee camps, according to those reports and the person who spoke to CPJ. No charges against him have been disclosed, according to those sources.

“Iranian authorities must free photojournalist Majid Saeedi immediately and unconditionally, and let him do his job documenting the lives of Afghan refugees in Iran,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour. “Journalists must be able to cover such events of national and international interest without fear that they will be arbitrarily detained.”

Authorities also arrested a Shargh Daily reporter at the scene, and released the reporter a few hours later on bail, according to the HRANA report, which did not disclose the journalist’s name.

CPJ emailed Alireza Miryousefi, the head of the media office of Iran’s mission to the United Nations, for comment on Saeedi and the unnamed journalist, but did not receive any reply. CPJ also emailed Shargh Daily for comment, but did not receive any immediate response.