Police stand guard during a student protest in Tehran, Iran’s capital, on August 15, 2020. Journalist Seyed Hossein Ronaghi Maleki was arrested and taken to an unknown location on February 23, 2022. (Majid Asgarpour/West Asia News Agency via Reuters)

Prominent blogger Seved Hossein Ronaghi Maleki arrested in Iran after critical tweets

Washington, D.C., February 24, 2022 — Iranian authorities should immediately release blogger Seyed Hossein Ronaghi Maleki and drop any charges against him, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Thursday.

On Wednesday, February 23, the Tehran home of Ronaghi Maleki, a freelance blogger and freedom of expression activist who posts reporting critical of the government on social media, was raided by unidentified security forces who took him to an unknown location, according to news reports and sources familiar with the case who spoke to CPJ on the condition of anonymity due to the fear of reprisal.

The actions follow a Tuesday Twitter thread by Ronaghi Maleki, posted in both Farsi and English, which condemned the passing of the “User Protection Bill,” a controversial piece of legislation that restricts Iranians’ access to the internet and was ratified by parliament earlier that day.

Authorities have not officially accepted any responsibility for Ronaghi Maleki’s arrest, no charges have been formally announced, and CPJ was unable to confirm where the blogger is being held, the reasons for his arrest, or which branch of the security forces arrested him.

“With the arrest of Seyed Hossein Ronaghi Maleki, the Iranian government is seemingly continuing its absurd practice of arbitrarily detaining journalists without charge,” said CPJ Program Director Carlos Martinez de la Serna, in New York. “Authorities must release Ronaghi Maleki immediately or at least reveal his location and any charges against him and allow all Iranians to freely access the internet.”

At 11 a.m. on February 23, Ronaghi Maleki called his parents to say he was going to work, according to Reza Ronaghi, the blogger’s father, who spoke to the U.S. Congress-funded Radio Farda, adding that his son had received several threatening calls in recent weeks and told his family that he might be arrested again soon.

When Ronaghi Maleki’s family was unable to get in touch with him, they went to his apartment later that evening where they found the home ransacked and noted that his computer, laptop, hard drives, and several notebooks were missing, according to Hassan Ronaghi, the blogger’s brother, who spoke to CPJ by phone.

“Hossein’s life is at risk because he suffers from several health conditions including kidney, lungs, blood, and digestive issues and we don’t know if the kidnappers will give him his medicine,” Hassan Ronaghi said, adding that the blogger’s family asked the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence about Ronaghi Maleki’s arrest and status, but they have not received a response yet.

CPJ emailed the Iranian mission to the United Nations in New York requesting comment on Ronaghi Maleki’s arrest but did not receive a response. Ronaghi Maleki, also known as Babak Khoramddin, was previously arrested on December 13, 2009, and sentenced to 15 years in prison after discussing politics in a series of critical blogs that were eventually blocked by the government, according to CPJ research. He suffered multiple health issues, undergoing several kidney surgeries, which eventually led to his unconditional release in 2019.