Police stand guard in Tehran, Iran, on July 21, 2023. Authorities recently arrested journalist Seyed Mostafa Jaffari. (Reuters/West Asia News Agency)

Iranian journalist Seyed Mostafa Jaffari arrested on false news charges

Washington, D.C., July 24, 2023 — Iranian authorities must release journalist Seyed Mostafa Jaffari from prison immediately and stop jailing members of the press for reporting on issues of public interest, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Monday. 

On Monday, July 24, security forces arrested Jaffari in the central city of Qazvin on charges filed by Branch 10 of the Revolutionary Court for allegedly publishing false news, according to news reports.

Authorities previously arrested Jaffari, editor-in-chief and publisher of the local news website Titrqavin.ir, on July 12, shortly after he published an interview with a member of Iran’s parliament from Qazvin province. He was released on bail after five days.

“Iranian authorities must immediately and unconditionally free journalist Seyed Mostafa Jaffari and cease the practice of arbitrarily locking up members of the press for reporting on matters of public interest,” said Sherif Mansour, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. “Journalists must be able to work without fear that they will be subject to arrest and detention for covering news about officials and lawmakers.”

In that July 12 article, which CPJ reviewed before it was taken offline, Titrqavin.ir covered alleged hostility between a member of parliament from Qazvin and Iran’s national tourism minister.

Authorities previously charged Jaffari with spreading false news and detained him in July 2022 after he published a report containing criticism of medical officials’ performance in Qazvin, according to those news reports. He was sentenced to two years in prison along with a two-year ban from practicing journalism, and had not begun serving his prison term as of Monday.

CPJ was unable to immediately determine which case prompted the journalist’s arrest on Monday.

Iran ranked as the world’s worst jailer of journalists in CPJ’s 2022 prison census, which documented those behind bars as of December 1. Overall, Iranian authorities are known to have detained at least 95 journalists in the wake of nationwide protests following the death in morality-police custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini last September. Many have been released on bail while awaiting trial or summonses to serve multi-year sentences.

CPJ emailed Iran’s mission to the United Nations in New York requesting comment on Jaffari’s case but did not receive any reply.