Washington, D.C., March 11, 2022 — Iranian authorities must release journalist Amir-Abbas Azarmvand from prison immediately and should cease jailing members of the press for their work, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Friday.
In January, Judge Iman Afshari of Branch 26 of Tehran’s Islamic Revolutionary Court sentenced Azarmvand, a financial reporter for the state-run Iranian economic newspaper SMT, to four years and four months in prison, according to a report by the exile-run Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA), which said he was subsequently not summoned to prison to serve that sentence.
On Tuesday, March 8, authorities arrested Azarmvand along with a larger group of demonstrators at a march for International Women’s Day in Tehran; once in custody, authorities took him to Evin Prison to serve that sentence, according to that HRANA report and a person familiar with the case, who spoke to CPJ on the condition of anonymity, citing fear of reprisal.
“Iranian authorities must immediately release journalist Amir-Abbas Azarmvand and ensure that he does not face any further charges over his work,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour. “It is bad enough that Iran sentences journalists to years in prison over their reporting – it is even worse when those sentences hang over a journalist’s head, to be enforced whenever authorities want to retaliate.”
Azarmvand’s January conviction stemmed from his arrest on September 1, 2021, for allegedly “colluding against national security” and “spreading propaganda against the system,” according to HRANA and CPJ’s reporting from the time; he was released on bail on September 23.
The person familiar with Azarmvand’s case told CPJ that they did not know whether the journalist faced additional charges stemming from his arrest at the protest, or whether he was only being held to serve the sentence in the previous case.
That person said they also did not know whether Azarmvand attended the women’s day march as a participant or if he was covering it as a journalist.
CPJ emailed Iran’s mission to the U.N. in New York requesting comment, but did not receive any reply.