Navid Seyed-Mohammadi

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Iranian journalist Navid Seyed-Mohammadi, a Kurdish reporter for the state-run Islamic Republic Radio and Television broadcaster, was arrested in May 2020 and is serving a seven-year sentence on a charge of “espionage for hostile states” in Naqadeh Central Prison in West Azerbaijan province. 

Intelligence agents of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp (IRGC) arrested Seyed-Mohammadi on May 14, 2020, in the city of Piranshahr, in West Azerbaijan province, after he returned from a short trip to Iraqi Kurdistan, a person familiar with the case told CPJ on the condition of anonymity, citing fear of reprisal. That person said agents raided Seyed-Mohammadi’s home without showing a search warrant.

According to a report by the exile-run Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA), authorities charged Seyed-Mohammadi with “espionage for hostile states” and on August 6, 2020, Branch 102 of the Revolutionary Court sentenced him to seven years in prison. HRANA and the Iran-focused press freedom group JournalismIsNotACrime, reported that he was later moved to Naqadeh Central Prison to serve his sentence. 

Since May 2020, Iranian authorities have arrested dozens of activists and students in a crackdown on perceived pro-Kurdish movements in the country, according to reports. Authorities arrested at least eight Kurdish journalists during that time; two of them–Nasrullah Lashani and Seyed-Mohammadi–remain in detention, according to news reports, CPJ reporting from the time, and sources familiar with the cases who spoke with CPJ. CPJ was unable to locate any of Seyed-Mohammadi’s past reporting.

A lawyer representing several of the journalists, who spoke to CPJ on the condition that their name and clients not be identified, said the IRGC was “very sensitive about Kurdish journalists and the topics they write about, especially if they write about unity of Iranian, Iraqi and Turkish Kurds, and other regional issues of Kurds.” The lawyer added that authorities are also “sensitive every time Kurdish journalists travel to Kurdish areas of Iraq such as Erbil. They closely monitor all movements across the border and any journalists’ assembly.” 

According to HRANA, Seyed-Mohammadi was temporarily released on bail on August 16, 2020, while the verdict was appealed. According to the same report, in February 2021 the Appeals Court upheld Seyed-Mohammadi’s sentence and he began serving his sentence in Naqadeh Central Prison immediately. 

According to HRANA, Seyed-Mohammadi was sent on a one-week prison furlough on September 20; he returned to prison to serve the rest of his sentence on September 26. CPJ was not able to determine Seyed-Mohammadi’s health condition in prison.

CPJ emailed Alireza Miryousefi, the head of the media office at Iran’s Mission to the United Nations, for comment on Seyed-Mohammadi’s case in late September 2021, but did not receive any response.