Mohammad Mosaed, a prominent Iranian economic reporter, was arrested on November 22, 2019, by agents of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) at his family’s home in the northern city of Rasht after publishing two tweets during an internet shutdown and protests that were met with violence by the government, according to multiple reports. He had worked for Shargh Daily newspaper until his forced resignation a few months before his arrest.
Mosaed worked as an economic reporter for reformist, Tehran-based Shargh Daily newspaper until he was forced to resign on July 3, 2019, allegedly under pressure from allies of Minister of Labor Mohammad Shariatmadari, whom he had accused of corruption in his reporting for the newspaper, according to exile-run news website IranWire. CPJ reached out to Shargh Daily for comment via Twitter and through its website, but did not receive a response.
Since then, he worked as a freelance reporter and published investigative stories about alleged corruption and labor union issues on social media, including his Twitter feed–which had more than 31,000 followers but was suspended after his arrest–and his channel on the popular messaging app Telegram–which had more than 13,000 followers–according to U.S.-Congress funded Voice of America (VOA) Persian service and a CPJ review of his work.
According to a CPJ review of his Telegram channel, Mosaed published investigative pieces primarily about alleged financial corruption by Iranian government officials, as well as other economic articles. According to German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle and a CPJ review of the channel, prior to his arrest, he criticized domestic media coverage of popular protests against high gas prices on this Telegram channel.
IRGC agents arrested Mosaed on November 22, 2019, at his family’s home in Rasht; he was later transferred to Tehran and detained for 16 days in Ward 2A of Evin prison, which is run by intelligence wing of the IRGC and has no oversight by any other government entity, before he was released on bail, according to a person familiar with Mosaed’s case who spoke to CPJ on February 25, on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal.
No charges were officially brought against Mosaed, according to the source familiar with his case. The source also confirmed to CPJ that Mosaed was not given access to a lawyer at the time of his arrest.
According to a report by IranWire, the Intelligence Ministry agents told Mosaed’s colleagues that he was being arrested because of tweets he had posted during an internet shutdown in the country. Internet service was cut off nationwide amid the protests that began on November 16, according to news reports.
Mosaed was arrested for posting two tweets on November 19, according to unnamed sources close to the journalist cited by VOA. Mosaed tweeted “Hello Free World!” and said he was using “42 different proxies” to access the internet, according to a screenshot of that post; his account was suspended on November 23, according to VOA. He also tweeted a congratulations to other Iranians who had been able to bypass the internet shutdown on November 19, according to Radio Farda.
A Tehran-based journalist told IranWire that newsrooms were told on November 15 not to criticize the increase in gas prices that sparked the protests. The journalist said they did not know where the order came from, but speculated that it could have come from the prosecutor-general’s office or the Ministry of Islamic Guidance. The journalist said that their newsroom complied with the order. Internet access was mostly restored in Iran on November 23, 2019, according to news reports.
CPJ was unable to contact Iran’s Ministry of Justice or the judiciary of Tehran province via their websites, which were not functioning. CPJ emailed Iran’s mission to the United Nations in December 2019; the head of the media office referred CPJ to Iran’s judiciary in Tehran for “any matters relating to internal justice affairs.”