Police are seen at the city limits of Tehran, Iran, on August 16, 2021. On August 28, 2022, Iranian authorities arrested freelance journalist Hadi Pourbeheshti while ransacking his home in the city of Kerman in the southeastern Kerman province. (Reuters/Majid Asgaripour/West Asia News Agency)

Iranian freelance journalist Hadi Pourbeheshti arrested in Kerman

Washington, D.C., September 2, 2022—Iranian authorities should immediately and unconditionally release journalist Hadi Pourbeheshti, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Friday.

On Sunday, August 28, security forces raided Pourbeheshti’s home in the city of Kerman in the southeastern Kerman province, and arrested him while ransacking his house in the presence of his family, according to a report by Human Rights in Iran, an exiled-based rights group, a Twitter post by Iranian journalist Hassan Abbasi, and a source familiar with the case who spoke to CPJ on the condition of anonymity due to fear of reprisal. During his arrest, security forces ransacked the entire house, confiscating all electronic devices, including his cellphone and his wife’s cellphone, according to the source familiar with the case.

As of Friday, September 2, Pourbeheshti—who writes political commentary and opinion pieces for various local publications in Kerman—was still detained without charge at an undisclosed location and has not been allowed to contact his family, according to the source familiar with the case.

According to the source, authorities verbally told his family that he is facing security and anti-state charges including espionage. 

According to the source, when security forces raided Pourbeheshti’s house, they scared bystanders away by threatening them and creating an atmosphere of fear so that no one would take photos or report the incident to media.

“Iranian authorities must learn that arresting journalists without charge is not the answer to hiding the country’s problems,” said Carlos Martinez de la Serna, CPJ’s program director, in New York. “The authorities must free journalist Hadi Pourbeheshti immediately and unconditionally and cease the practice of arbitrarily locking up members of the press.” 

Most recently, Pourbeheshti’s work was published by the local, semi-state-owned newspaper Bitarof and local, state-owned news website 8press.ir. He also runs an Instagram page called resanehbitarof (Impartial Media), which has more than 3,000 followers and covers local news. In his most recent pieces, Pourbeheshti criticized local government officials and questioned the vast number of embezzlement cases in different government offices in the city. CPJ was not able to locate his recent articles on Bitarof and 8press.ir outlets.

Kerman province was home to Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds Force General Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in a U.S. drone strike in 2020. Current, former, and retired IRGC officials have a strong presence in Kerman province, and in recent years have been appointed to many government positions. Thus, Pourbeheshti’s criticism of government officials is locally considered criticism of IRGC.  

CPJ emailed the United Nations’ Iranian mission in New York for comment but did not receive a response.

[Editor’s note: The date in the third paragraph has been corrected.]