Iranian police guard the British embassy during a demonstration in Tehran on January 12, 2024. Islamic Republic authorities continued placing legal pressure on several journalists throughout the country in late December 2023 and January 2024. (AFP/Atta Kenare)

Iranian journalist starts serving 6-month sentence; others face raids, legal threats

Washington, D.C., January 31, 2024—Iranian authorities must immediately release Iranian Kurdish journalist Arsalan Rasouli Amarlooi and end its campaign of harassment and legal threats against journalists, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Wednesday.

On January 24, security forces arrested Rasouli and took him to a prison work camp in the northern city of Kelardasht to serve a prison term of six months, according to local news reports. Rasouli works as a freelance commentator, journalist, and writer, focusing on coverage of domestic political policies for various publications.

In 2023, Rasouli was found guilty of “insulting the Supreme Leader of Iran” in an article published in the state-run newspaper Kayhan and sentenced to six months in prison. The Tonekabon Appeals Court and the Supreme Court rejected Rasouli’s appeals, and authorities took the journalist into custody when he responded to a summons from the revolutionary court in Nowshahr city in the northern province of Mazandaran to begin serving his sentence, according to those reports.

Separately, Islamic Republic authorities continued placing legal pressure on several journalists throughout the country in late December 2023 and January 2024.

“CPJ is closely monitoring what is becoming an epidemic of arresting journalists in Iran. This trend is resulting in the criminalization of all forms of journalism,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour. “Authorities must immediately and unconditionally release journalist Arsalan Rasouli Amarlooi and halt the intimidation and harassment of all Iranian journalists.”

CPJ has documented the following incidents of raids and legal action against Iranian journalists in recent weeks:

  • On January 26, Karaj Revolutionary Court sentenced Parisa Salehi, an economic reporter at the state-run financial newspaper Donya-e-Eqtesad, to one year in prison, a two-year ban on leaving the country, two years of internal exile, and a two-year ban on any activities on social media platforms, after convicting her on charges of “spreading propaganda against the system” for her reporting, although no specific report was mentioned.

  • On January 22, security forces raided the home of Elahe Ramezanpour in the central city of Gorgan in Golestan province after an order issued by the office of Gorgan’s prosecutor and confiscated her cell phone, laptop, and notes. According to those reports, Ramezanpour, a health reporter for the local news website, was earlier threatened by the prosecutor’s office after publishing several critical articles.

  • On December 30, 2023, eight security forces raided the family home of Ebrahim Rashidi, a freelance Iranian-Azeri journalist, in a village in Meshginshahr county in the northwestern province of Ardabil, and arrested the journalist without providing any warrant. The agents also confiscated Rashidi’s personal devices, including a laptop, cell phone, and some books, and transferred him to an undisclosed location. On January 16, Rashidi was able to make a brief call to let his family know that he was being held in Ardabil central prison. Authorities have yet to publicly announce any charges against Rashidi.

CPJ’s email to Iran’s mission to the United Nations in New York asking for comment on these cases did not receive any reply.