Reza Entesari

Beats Covered:
Local or Foreign:

Reza Entesari, an Iranian producer, documentary filmmaker, and reporter, was arrested in February 2018 while covering religious protests for the Majzooban-e-Noor website, which covers news about the Gonabadi Dervishes, a Sufi splinter group. He is serving a seven-year prison sentence in the Greater Tehran Penitentiary on anti-state charges. Tehran’s Appeals Court upheld his sentence in March 2019.

Reza Entesari, a reporter with Majzooban-e-Noor, was arrested by Iranian security forces on February 19, 2018, while he was covering the violent dispersal of religious protests in Tehran, according to the Majzooban-e-Noor website and the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI).

The clashes–which broke out between Tehran’s security forces and members the Gonabadi Dervishes, who were protesting the arrest of one of their members–resulted in six fatalities, including five police officers, and over 300 arrests, according to news reports.

Videos of the protests, including a clip that shows Entesari talking to the camera about the plight of the Dervish community, were posted to Kasra Nouri’s Twitter account on February 19.

In July 2018, Judge Abolqasem Salavati, often referred to as the "hanging judge," sentenced Entesari in absentia to 7 years in prison, 74 lashes, two years of exile, two years ban on leaving the country, two years ban on any media activities and joining any political or social factions for the charges of colluding to act against national security, disturbing the public order, and disobeying the orders of law enforcement, the Majzooban-e-Noor Twitter account and Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty reported in August.

Entesari refused to attend the court session in which he was tried. Instead, in an open letter to the court he called the circumstances of the trial "unfair" and asked for a public trial, Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty reported.

According to Salavati, Entesari’s "live coverage of the protests in February on social media prepared the environment for the anti-regime groups to revolt against the ruling system," the website’s Twitter account reported August 16.

On October 17, 2018, Majzooban-e-Noor‘s Twitter account said that Entesari was among eight Dervishes who had been separated from other prisoners for 50 days; CHRI reported on September 19 that the group was sent to solitary confinement for taking part in a sit-in protest at the Great Tehran Penitentiary. He and the rest of the group were kept in solitary confinement for 105 days before being transferred back to the public ward, the Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) reported on December 13, 2018.

His father told Majzooban on September 29, 2018, that prison guards severely injured Entesari, including his head, at the time of the attack, and one of his shoulders was broken.

Alireza Roshan, one of the website’s news directors–who is based in Turkey–told the VOA Persian Service that the regime is issuing heavy sentences for reporters who work for or with Majzooban-e-Noor in an attempt to shut down the website and silence Dervishes.

In an open letter in December 2018, 23 Gonabadi Dervishes, including Entesari and five other Majzooban-e-Noor journalists, wrote “they do not find the Revolutionary Court legitimate and the Appeals Court is just a deceptive show,” CHRI reported on March 16, 2019.

To demonstrate that they do not recognize the legitimacy of the court, the group did not appeal their initial sentences, the Majzooban-e-Noor website reported on March 12, 2019. The appeals court therefore upheld their verdicts, according to Majzooban-e-Noor and multiple reports in the media and from family members of the detained Dervishes. CPJ could not confirm the exact date of the hearing.

Infosufi, a news website covering Gonabadi Dervishes, published a copy of his sentence.

In October 2019, CPJ emailed Entesari’s family to inquire about his health in prison, but the family did not immediately respond.

More than 70 imprisoned Gonabadi Dervishes–including Entesari and five other Majzooban-e-Noor journalists–announced a hunger strike on November 2, 2019, to protest the treatment of their 92-year-old leader, Noor Ali Tabandeh, who has been under house arrest since February 2018, according to a November 9 video posted on Twitter by BBC Persian service and two family members who spoke to CPJ but asked to remain anonymous due to security concerns.

Entesari was arrested in 2011 and sentenced in 2013 to eight years and six months and banned for reporting for five years over charges of "disrupting national security," "propaganda against the state," "insulting the Supreme Leader," and "participation in disrupting public order," according to his employer’s website. He was released in 2014, Entesari said in a video posted after he was freed.

Prior to 2009, Entesari worked as a reporter for the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting but he was fired because of his religious beliefs, Entesari told Iranian diaspora news website IranWire.

CPJ was unable to contact Iran’s Ministry of Justice or the judiciary of Tehran province via their websites, which were not functioning. CPJ could not locate an email address, website, or phone number for the Greater Tehran Penitentiary. CPJ emailed Iran’s mission to the United Nations in October 2019 for comment on the cases of the six Majzooban-e-Noor journalists, but did not receive a response.