Iran continues to jail dozens of journalists, stifling critical news coverage and commentary. Crucial links to the international community have been cut off as the June presidential vote approaches. A CPJ special report by Sherif Mansour
Journalists Imprisoned in Iran, December 2000-April 2013
Published May 8, 2013
Iranian authorities are holding at least 40 journalists in prison as the June presidential election approaches, the second-highest total in the world and a figure that reflects the government’s continuing determination to silence independent coverage of public affairs, a new analysis by the Committee to Protect Journalists has found.
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CPJ’s census of journalists imprisoned on April 15 also highlights the severe deterioration of freedom of expression in Iran over time. In December 2004, during the last full year of President Mohammad Khatami’s tenure, CPJ documented just one journalist in prison during its annual worldwide prison census. By December 2009, after a contested presidential election returned Mahmoud Ahmedinejad to office, the number had grown to 23 in CPJ’s annual census. CPJ surveys since that time have consistently shown 35 to 50 journalists in prison in Iran at any given time.
Only Turkey, with 48 in jail, was detaining more journalists on April 15, CPJ research shows.
As devastating as the imprisonments are to the individual journalists and their families, the Iranian government’s tactics have had an intimidating effect on the press, choking off the flow of information. This census and CPJ’s past surveys are simply snapshots in time—they do not include the large numbers of journalists convicted of crimes or facing charges who are temporarily free on bail or furlough. Iran has pursued a revolving-door policy in imprisoning journalists, freeing some detainees on short-term furloughs even as they make new arrests. The pattern of rotating critical journalists in and out of prison has sown fear and self-censorship across the entire press corps, according to CPJ research. At least 68 Iranian journalists fled into exile between 2007 and 2012 due to harassment and the threat of imprisonment, according to CPJ research. Only Somali journalists have gone into exile in higher numbers during that period.
The Iranian government has used several other tactics to intimidate journalists. Authorities have blocked millions of websites, banned reformist publications, and conducted widespread electronic surveillance in an effort to make a wide range of topics off-limits to public debate. “Many of the topics we could cover five years ago, like cultural issues, we couldn’t do anymore,” Omid Memarian, an exiled Iranian journalist, told CPJ. “Journalists were even prevented from covering the earthquake relief efforts that happened in Iran last year.”
In 2013, as the Iranian government began a new wave of detentions aimed at silencing journalists ahead of the elections, Intelligence Minister Heydar Moslehi announced that 600 Iranian journalists were part of an anti-state network. He said the arrests were an attempt to “prevent the emergence of sedition prior to the elections.”
Farideh Farhi, a member of the graduate faculty at the University of Hawaii who has written extensively about Iran, said the arrests are part of a concerted effort by Iranian authorities to break the links between reporters inside Iran and their Farsi-speaking counterparts abroad. In the 2009 election, poll observers representing the candidates passed on reports of fraud to local reporters who then relayed the information to colleagues outside the country. This chain of information may be broken for this year’s vote, Farhi suspects. “The intent,” she said, “is to make sure that reporters inside Iran will hesitate to answer their phones or Skype when Persian-speaking reporters based outside of Iran call to figure out what’s going on.”
Authorities also place intense pressure on the families of jailed writers and editors. One Iranian journalist, Massoud Lavasani, who fled the country after being imprisoned and tortured for two years, told CPJ that his wife, Fatemeh Kheradmand, a journalist still living in Iran, is now the sole caretaker of their child. She was summoned by authorities for questioning recently. He said he fears that she will be arrested soon and asked: “What would happen to our child now?”
CPJ research shows that journalists imprisoned in Iran are routinely subject to abusive treatment, including floggings, extended periods of solitary confinement, and denial of family visits and medical care. Here are other trends and details that emerged in CPJ’s analysis:
- Sixty-five percent of journalists are being held at Evin Prison in Tehran. A number of them, including Hossein Derakhshan and Saeed Madani, have reported being tortured and coerced into making false confessions. At least two journalists in the past four years have died from severe abuse at Evin Prison: Omidreza Mirsayafi in 2009 and Sattar Beheshti in 2012. A third journalist, Hoda Saber, died of a heart attack at Evin Prison in 2011 after enduring harsh treatment.
- Most of the charges were based on the journalists’ critical views of the Iranian government. Eighteen faced charges of “spreading propaganda against the state”; eight for “acting against national security”; three for “insulting the Supreme Leader”; one for “insulting the president”; one for espionage in connection with Israel; and one for “waging war against God.” At least eight jailed journalists had not been informed of the charges against them.
- At least eight journalists behind bars have waged hunger strikes to protest their harsh conditions and abusive treatment. At least 13 have been placed in solitary confinement. One critical blogger, Mehdi Khazali, has waged several hunger strikes in prison to protest his sentence of 14 years in jail and 90 lashes on charges of “insulting the supreme leader.” Khazali has been held in solitary confinement for extended periods and his health has deteriorated, according to his son
- Several journalists have been detained in prisons far away from their homes, a tactic used to punish journalists’ families. For example, at least nine journalists included in the census, all of whom are affiliated with the Gonabadi dervishes minority group in the city of Shiraz, are being held in Evin Prison, despite their arrest in the town of Kavar, more than 600 miles away.
Below are capsule reports on each journalist jailed in Iran on April 15, 2013:
Adnan Hassanpour, Aso
Imprisoned: January 25, 2007
Security agents seized Hassanpour, editor of the now-defunct Kurdish-Persian weekly Aso, in his hometown of Marivan, Kurdistan province, according to news reports. In July 2007, a Revolutionary Court convicted Hassanpour, 32, on anti-state charges and sentenced him to death. After a series of appeals and reversals, he was sentenced in May 2010 to 15 years in prison, his defense lawyer, Saleh Nikbakht, told the independent press outlet Human Rights Activists News Agency.
The government’s case against Hassanpour amounted to a series of assertions by security agents, his defense attorney, Sirvan Hosmandi, told CPJ in 2008. Hassanpour’s sister, Lily, told CPJ that she believed his critical writings were behind the charges.
Hassanpour was being held at Sanandaj Central Prison in Kurdistan Province. He has not been allowed furlough during his time in prison despite repeated requests by his lawyer and family, news reports said. His sister told the Committee of Human Rights Reporters that the journalist’s overall health had deteriorated in prison from lack of proper medical care.
Mohammad Seddigh Kaboudvand, Payam-e-Mardom
Imprisoned: July 1, 2007
Plainclothes security officials arrested journalist and human rights activist Kaboudvand, 49, at his Tehran office, according to Amnesty International and CPJ sources. He was being held at Evin Prison in Tehran.
Authorities charged Kaboudvand, head of the Human Rights Organization of Kurdistan and managing editor of the weekly Payam-e-Mardom, with acting against national security and engaging in propaganda against the state, according to his organization’s website. A Revolutionary Court in Tehran sentenced him to 11 years in prison in 2008.
Kaboudvand’s health deteriorated in prison, and he was consistently denied requests for medical leave or family visits. The journalist’s wife, Farinaz Baghban Hassani, told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran that when his family members were finally allowed to see him, they believed he had suffered significant heart problems in custody. News accounts also reported that the journalist has suffered from severe dizziness and disruption of speech and vision.
Kaboudvand has waged several hunger strikes to protest authorities’ refusal to grant him a furlough to see his son, who was diagnosed with leukemia, according to news reports. After waging a hunger strike that left him hospitalized, authorities in December 2012 temporarily released him on bail of 700 million toman (about US$250,000) to visit his son. The journalist returned to prison after four days, news reports said.
Mojtaba Lotfi, freelance
Imprisoned: October 8, 2008
Security forces arrested Lotfi, a blogger and clergyman, on a warrant issued by the Clergy Court in Qom. Authorities accused him of publishing the views of Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri, the deceased cleric who had criticized President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s positions, but did not specify any articles or publications in which the views were supposedly cited.
In November 2009, Lotfi was convicted of several charges, including spreading anti-state information, and sentenced to four years in prison followed by a period of exile, according to news reports.
In July 2010, the Human Rights House of Iran reported that Lotfi had been transferred to the remote village of Ashtian for 10 years of enforced internal exile. Lotfi, an Iran-Iraq War veteran who was exposed to chemical agents, suffers from a respiratory illness that has worsened during his confinement, the reformist news website Norooz News reported.
Hossein Derakhshan, freelance
Imprisoned: November 2008
On December 30, 2008, a judiciary spokesman confirmed at a press conference in Tehran that Derakhshan, a well-known Iranian-Canadian blogger, had been detained since November in connection with comments he allegedly made about a key cleric, according to news reports. The exact date of Derakhshan’s arrest is unknown, but word of his detention was first reported on November 17, 2008, by Jahan News, a website close to the Iranian intelligence service that claimed the journalist had confessed to “spying for Israel” during a preliminary interrogation.
Known as the “Blogfather” for his pioneering online work, Derakhshan started blogging after the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States. A former writer for reformist newspapers, he also contributed opinion pieces to the Guardian of London and The New York Times. The journalist, who lived in Canada during most of the decade prior to his detention, had returned to Tehran a few weeks before his arrest, The Washington Post reported.
In September 2010, the government announced that Derakhshan had been sentenced to 19 and a half years in prison, along with a five-year ban on “membership in political parties and activities in the media,” according to the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran and other reports.
Derakhshan has spent much of his imprisonment in solitary confinement at Evin Prison, according to multiple sources. The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, citing a source close to the journalist’s family, said Derakhshan had been beaten and coerced into making false confessions about having ties to U.S. and Israeli intelligence services. He has been allowed short-term furloughs in recent years.
Ahmad Zaid-Abadi, freelance
Imprisoned: June 2009
Zaid-Abadi, who wrote a weekly column for Rooz Online, a Farsi- and English-language reformist news website, was arrested in Tehran, according to news reports. Zaid-Abadi had been a supporter of the defeated 2009 presidential candidate Mehdi Karroubi and had served as director of the politically active Organization of University Alumni of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
On November 23, 2009, Zaid-Abadi was sentenced to six years in prison, five years of internal exile in Khorasan province, and a “lifetime deprivation of any political activity” including “interviews, speeches, and analysis of events, whether in written or oral form,” according to the Persian service of the German public news broadcaster Deutsche Welle. An appeals court upheld the sentence on January 2, 2010, according to Advar News.
In February 2010, Zaid-Abadi was transferred to Rajaee Shahr Prison. Zaid-Abadi’s wife, Mahdieh Mohammadi, said prison conditions were crowded and unsanitary, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran reported. She said she feared malnutrition and the spread of disease.
In recent years, Zaid-Abadi has been granted short furloughs after posting large bail sums, according to reformist news websites. He was awarded the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize in 2011 and the World Association of Newspapers’ Golden Pen of Freedom Award in 2010.
Kayvan Samimi, Nameh
Imprisoned: June 14, 2009
Samimi, manager of the now-defunct monthly Nameh, was serving a six-year prison sentence along with a 15-year ban on “political, social, and cultural activities,” the Aftab News website reported.
Samimi was subjected to mistreatment while being held in Evin Prison. In February 2010, he was transferred to solitary confinement after objecting to poor prison conditions, according to Free Iranian Journalists, a website devoted to documenting cases of jailed reporters and editors. In November 2010, the journalist was transferred to Rajaee Shahr Prison in Karaj, which houses violent criminals, according to news reports.
Samimi suffers from liver problems, which have worsened in custody. He was briefly hospitalized in March 2012 for treatment.
In September 2012, authorities at Rajaee Shahr Prison placed Samimi and fellow journalist Massoud Bastani in solitary confinement for several days after a photograph of the two detainees was published on the reformist news website Kaleme, the outlet reported. Since his arrest, Samimi has been allowed furlough only once. He has gone on hunger strike several times to protest prison conditions and treatment.
Issa Saharkhiz, freelance
Imprisoned: July 3, 2009
Saharkhiz, a columnist for the reformist news websites Rooz Online and Norooz and a founding member of the Association of Iranian Journalists, was arrested while traveling in northern Iran, the association said in a statement. His lawyer said his client was charged with “participation in riots,” “encouraging others to participate in riots,” and “insulting the supreme leader,” according to Rooz Online.
Saharkhiz was sentenced in September 2010 to three years in prison, a five-year ban on political and journalistic activities, and a one-year ban on foreign travel, the reformist news website Jonbesh-e-Rah-e-Sabz reported in September 2010. In an interview with Radio Zamaneh, Mehdi Saharkhiz said his father would not appeal the court’s decision. “He said that all sentencing is made under [Ayatollah Ali] Khamenei’s direct supervision and the judiciary has nothing to do with it. Therefore, neither the lower court nor the appeals court is official in any way, and they are only for show.”
Saharkhiz was handed an additional two-year sentence on August 5, 2011, in connection to what was only referred to as “press-related charges,” the U.S. government-funded Radio Farda reported. The term was reduced to 18 months in prison on June 18, 2012.
Saharkhiz has had a long career in journalism. He worked for 15 years for IRNA, Iran’s official news agency, and ran its New York office for part of that time. He returned to Iran in 1997 to work in Mohammad Khatami’s Ministry of Islamic Guidance, in charge of domestic publications. Journalist Ahmad Bourghani and Saharkhiz came to be known as the architects of a period of relative freedom for the press in Iran. But as the regime took a more conservative bent, Saharkhiz was forced to leave the ministry and was eventually banned from government service. He founded a reformist newspaper, Akhbar-e-Eghtesad, and a monthly magazine, Aftab, both of which were eventually banned. He wrote articles directly critical of Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader.
During his imprisonment, which began at Evin Prison, Saharkhiz was subjected to constant pressure, including being kept in a prison yard overnight in freezing temperatures without shoes or socks, according to Rooz Online.
Over the course of his prison term, Saharkhiz has suffered from poor health including blood pressure, spine, and neck problems. He was hospitalized for treatment of a heart condition in February 2012; authorities moved him back to Evin Prison in August against the wishes of his doctor, news reports said. In September 2012, Saharkhiz refused medication and began waging a hunger strike to protest his transfer back to prison. He suffered a heart attack and was hospitalized in state custody, his son told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.
Saeed Matin-Pour, freelance
Imprisoned: July 12, 2009
Matin-Pour, a journalist who wrote for his own blog and for the newspapers Yar Pag and Mouj Bidari in western Azerbaijan province, was first arrested in May 2007. He was released on bail, then re-arrested in July 2009 amid the government’s massive crackdown on dissidents and the press.
A Revolutionary Court in Tehran convicted Matin-Pour on charges of having “relations with foreigners” and “propagating against the regime,” according to local news reports. He was sentenced to an eight-year prison term.
In September 2012, Matin-Pour’s wife, Atieh Taheri, told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran that the journalist had been kept in solitary confinement for months, interrogated, and tortured. Reformist news websites reported that Matin-Pour had developed heart and respiratory problems.
The Iranian Human Rights Activists News Agency reported on April 1, 2013, that Matin-Pour had also developed severe spinal pain and chronic headaches in prison. The agency said authorities had denied his repeated requests for transfer to a hospital.
Abolfazl Abedini Nasr, Bahar Ahvaz
Imprisoned: March 3, 2010
Abedini, who wrote about labor issues for the provincial weekly Bahar Ahvaz, was arrested in Ahvaz and transferred to Evin Prison in Tehran, according to the website of Reporters and Human Rights Activists.
An Ahvaz court in April 2010 sentenced Abedini to 11 years in prison on anti-state charges that included having “contact with enemy states,” the reformist news website Jonbesh-e-Rah-e-Sabz reported. Abedini was not represented by a lawyer at trial. When Abedini appealed, a Khuzestan provincial appellate court would not allow a defense lawyer to present arguments, the reformist website Kaleme reported. The appeals court upheld the verdict.
In September 2010, Human Rights House in Iran reported that Abedini had been beaten at Ahvaz Prison. He was transferred to Tehran’s Evin Prison later that same month, the group reported. On May 4, 2011, a Revolutionary Court judge sentenced Abedini to an additional year in prison on the charge of “propagating against the regime,” Human Rights House reported. The basis for the additional charge was not disclosed.
Abedini suffered severe abdominal pain, the reformist news website Kaleme reported. Authorities denied his request for an independent medical examination, the website said.
Siamak Ghaderi, freelance
Imprisoned: July 27, 2010
Ghaderi was arrested in connection with entries he posted on his blog, IRNA-ye maa, or Our IRNA, a reference to the Islamic Republic’s official news agency. In the entries, he wrote about street protests and other developments after the contested 2009 presidential election, according to the reformist news website Jonbesh-e-Rah-e-Sabz.
In January 2011, Ghaderi was sentenced to four years in prison and 60 lashes on charges of “propagating against the regime,” “creating public anxiety,” and “spreading falsehoods,” according to the BBC’s Farsi service.
Ghaderi was an editor and reporter for IRNA for 18 years until he was dismissed for writing about the 2009 election on his blog, Jonbesh-e-Rah-e-Sabz said. Pro-government news websites, among them Rasekhoon and Haghighat News, called him a “seditionist” who was arrested for “immoral” acts. Ghaderi’s blog was repeatedly blocked by authorities before he was detained, Jonbesh-e-Rah-e-Sabz reported.
Among the entries that authorities found objectionable was a piece in which Ghaderi interviewed several Iranian homosexuals. The article was an apparent reaction to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s public assertion that “there are no homosexuals in Iran.” The lashes in his sentence were for “cooperating with homosexuals,” the BBC reported.
In August 2012, Ghaderi told his wife that he and 13 political prisoners had received lashes, according to the U.S. government-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
The reformist news website Kaleme reported that Ghaderi was being held at Evin Prison. The journalist has not been allowed furlough since his arrest.
Mohammad Reza Pourshajari (Siamak Mehr), freelance
Imprisoned: September 12, 2010
Pourshajari, a blogger who wrote under the penname Siamak Mehr, was arrested at his home in Karaj, outside Tehran, according to news and human rights websites. In his blog Gozaresh be Khaak-e-Iran (Reports to the Soil of Iran), Pourshajari was critical of Iran’s theological state.
In an open letter dated December 2010, published by the Human Rights and Democracy Activists of Iran, Pourshajari described his arrest and subsequent detention. He said intelligence agents confiscated a computer hard drive, satellite receiver, and numerous documents. The journalist wrote that he was taken to Rajaee Shahr Prison, where interrogators tortured him and subjected him to a mock execution. He said he was not allowed visitors, phone calls, or access to a lawyer.
Pourshajari was sentenced to three years in prison in December 2010 on charges of “propagating against the regime” and “insulting the supreme leader Human Rights and Democracy Activists of Iran reported. In October 2011, he was transferred to Ghezel Hessar Prison, where hardened criminals are confined, the group said.
In April 2012, the Karaj Revolutionary Court sentenced Pourshajari to an additional year in prison on blasphemy charges, bringing his total sentence to four years. The journalist has declined to file appeals, citing the lack of due process in the judicial system.
Pourshajari’s daughter told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran on April 1, 2013, that the journalist had suffered a heart attack in prison in the fall of 2012. She said her father would die in custody unless prison authorities allowed him to have open heart surgery.
Arash Honarvar Shojaei, freelance
Imprisoned: October 28, 2010
Nearly a year after Shojaei was first jailed, a special clerical court sentenced him to four years in prison and 50 lashes on October 2, 2011, on multiple charges of “acting against national security,” “espionage,” and “cooperation with foreign embassies,” the reformist news outlet Radio Zamaneh reported.
Shojaei, a blogger and cleric, was also the author of the book Madar-e-Shari’at, about the dissident cleric Ayatollah Mohammad Kazem Shariatmadari, according to Radio Zamaneh. Shariatmadari had opposed the principle of velayat-e-faqih, which seeks to convey unlimited power to the supreme leader.
Shojaei was being held at Evin Prison, where he endured torture and several months of solitary confinement, according to the Human Rights House of Iran and Radio Zamaneh. The journalist suffered from a heart condition, a hearing impairment, epilepsy, brain atrophy, spinal disc problems, and diabetes, all of which developed while he was in prison, reformist news websites said.
Shojaei was granted a medical furlough in November 2011 but was summoned back to Evin Prison in January 2012 before his medical treatment had been completed, news reports said. He was briefly hospitalized in September 2012 after suffering a heart attack and seizure, according to the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.
The Human Rights Activists News Agency reported that Shojaei has waged multiple hunger strikes to protest his treatment in prison.
Fereydoun Seydi Rad, freelance
Imprisoned: March 2, 2011
Seydi Rad, a blogger, was held in Evin Prison after being convicted of “propagating against the regime” on his blog, Arak Green Revolution. Seydi Rad wrote about the pro-democracy movement, student protests, and labor strikes in the city of Arak.
A Revolutionary Court in Tehran also convicted Seydi Rad on anti-state charges related to taking part in a 2010 protest and attending the 2009 funeral of Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri, a prominent cleric who had criticized President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s positions. The court imposed a total sentence of three years when it handed down the verdict in August 2011.
Seydi Rad’s 2011 arrest was not disclosed for several months, according to news accounts. His sister, Faranak Seydi, told the reformist news website Jonbesh-e-Rah-e-Sabz that family members had not told the media about the journalist’s arrest because they feared reprisal. The Committee of Human Rights Reporters, an organization of journalists who document human rights abuses, said Seydi Rad underwent 43 days of interrogation and solitary confinement after being arrested.
Alireza Rajaee, freelance
Imprisoned: April 23, 2011
Rajaee, a leader of Iran’s Journalists Association and editor for several reformist publications, was being held at Evin Prison, according to reformist news outlets. He was summoned to serve a previously suspended three-year term that dated to a 2001 case in which he was convicted of “acting against national security.”
While in prison, Rajaee signed a number of letters calling for free elections and protesting detention conditions, which led to new charges of “propagating against the regime,” news reports said. In February 2012, he was sentenced to an additional four years in prison.
Rajaee served as a politics editor and editorial board member for reformist publications including Jame’eh, Iran-e-Farda, Payam-e-Hajar, and Iran Political.
Alireza Behshti Shirazi, Kalameh Sabz
Imprisoned: July 10, 2011
Authorities summoned Shirazi, editor-in-chief of the now-defunct reformist daily Kalameh Sabz, to serve a five-year prison sentence in Evin Prison, according to reformist news websites. Kalemeh Sabz was one of the initial Green Movement publications, which arose after the disputed 2009 election and criticized the regime’s policies, according to news reports.
Shirazi was first arrested in December 2009 and transferred to solitary confinement in Evin Prison, according to reformist news websites. He was sentenced to five years in prison on charges of “acting against national security,” but was released on bail in October 2010, the report said. He was summoned to begin serving his prison term in July 2011.
Ahmadreza Ahmadpour, freelance
Imprisoned: July 18, 2011
Ahmadpour, a journalist, blogger, and researcher at Qom Seminary, was serving a three-year term at Yazd Prison on anti-state charges stemming from a letter he wrote to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, according to reformist news websites. In the letter, written in 2010 while he was serving an earlier prison term, Ahmadpour protested abuses of his rights. The Qom Special Clerics Court also imposed 10 years of exile, defrocking, and deprivation of any clerical position, according to the same reports.
A disabled Iran-Iraq War veteran, Ahmadpour suffers from respiratory problems due to exposure to chemical warfare. His respiratory condition has worsened and he now suffers cardiac problems due to harsh prison conditions and lack of medical care, according to reformist news websites. Ahmadpour was being held at the Khorram Abad Prison, which is used to confine hardened criminals, according to news reports.
Ahmadpour was a student of Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri, the now-deceased cleric who had criticized President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s positions. He was arrested in December 2009 and sentenced to a year in prison on charges of “acting against national security” and “violating the dignity of the clergy” in his writings, reformist news websites said.
Saeed Jalalifar, Committee of Human Rights Reporters
Imprisoned: July 31, 2011
Jalalifar, who had reported on child labor and political prisoner issues for the committee, was first arrested in December 2009 on charges of “propaganda against the regime.” He was free on bail for more than a year before being summoned back to Evin Prison in July 2011, the BBC Persian service reported.
The opposition website Pars Daily News reported that Branch 28 of the Tehran Revolutionary Court sentenced Jalalifar to three years in prison on charges of “propaganda against the regime” and “assembly and collusion with the intent to act against national security.”
Jalalifar and four other political detainees waged a hunger strike in June 2012 to protest abusive treatment by prison guards, according to the reformist news website Kaleme. Numerous journalists working for the Committee of Human Rights Reporters have been detained since 2009 in connection with their work in exposing human rights violations and government malfeasance.
Morteza Moradpour, Yazligh
Imprisoned: August 26, 2011
Moradpour, who wrote for Yazligh, a children’s magazine, was serving a three-year prison term on charges of “propagating against the Islamic Republic of Iran,” “mutiny,” and “illegal congregation,” according to the Committee of Human Rights Reporters. He was being held in Tabriz Central Prison.
Moradpour was first arrested in 2009 along with several family members during a protest over Azeri-language rights in Tabriz in northwestern Azerbaijan province, according to the committee. Two issues of Yazligh were used as evidence in the trial against him, the news website Bizim Tabriz reported. In November 2009, Moradpour was sentenced to three years in prison, Azeri news websites reported. He was released on the equivalent of US$50,000 bail in late 2010, according to Baybak, a local Azeri news website.
He was re-arrested in August 2011 after taking part in protests related to the environmental degradation of Lake Orumiyeh in northwestern Iran, reformist news websites reported.
Mostafa Abdi, Majzooban-e-Noor
Omid Behroozi, Majzooban-e-Noor
Mostafa Daneshjoo, Majzooban-e-Noor
Reza Entessari, Majzooban-e-Noor
Amir Eslami, Majzooban-e-Noor
Afshin Karampour, Majzooban-e-Noor
Hamid Reza Moradi, Majzooban-e-Noor
Saleh Moradi, Majzooban-e-Noor
Farshid Yadollahi, Majzooban-e-Noor
Imprisoned: September 5, 2011
Authorities arrested at least 30 members of the religious minority Gonabadi dervishes following a confrontation with plainclothes agents in the town of Kavar in Fars province, a spokesman for the group told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. Many dervishes were imprisoned immediately after the 2011 crackdown.
Among the detainees were journalists affiliated with Majzooban-e-Noor, a website that reports news about the Gonabadi dervish community, according to the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran and the reformist news website Rooz Online.
The Majzooban-e-Noor website listed Daneshjoo, Karampour, Entessari, Hamid Reza Moradi, and Yadollahi as directors, and Behroozi and Eslami as editors. The journalists are also lawyers who have represented Gonabadi dervishes in recent years. Saleh Moradi, Hamid’s brother, as well as Abdi, are listed on the site as reporters.
On January 15, 2013, the journalists refused to attend their trial, saying the Revolutionary Court was not qualified to hear their case, news reports said. The journalists were put in solitary confinement in Evin Prison and face charges of “publishing falsehoods,” “creating public anxiety,” “propaganda against the state,” and “acting against national security,” according to the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.
said agents had targeted the journalists in an effort to silence news coverage about the group. Hamid Reza Moradi’s wife told the Campaign for Human Rights that her husband and his colleagues had established the website so that “people would know what is happening to the dervishes.” She said the charges against the journalists were unfounded and that her husband denied the accusations, saying that he had defended the rights of the dervishes but had not done anything illegal.
Saeed Madani, freelance
Imprisoned: January 7, 2012
Security forces arrested Madani, a former editorial board member of the long-defunct Iran-e-Farda magazine and former editor-in-chief of the quarterly Refah-e-Ejtemaee (Journal of Social Welfare), and confiscated a computer hard drive from his home, news reports said.
The journalist, 74, was placed in solitary confinement after his arrest, Madani’s wife told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran in March 2012. His wife also said their family had not been told of his condition in prison. The reformist news website Kaleme reported that Madani had been subjected to violent and abusive interrogations.
Madani faced trial on January 16, 2013, at a Tehran Revolutionary Court on charges of “propaganda against the state” and “assembly and collusion,” and offered a statement in his own defense, news reports said. He has not yet been told of the court’s decision, reports said.
Kasra Nouri, Majzooban-e-Noor
Imprisoned: March 14, 2012
Nouri, a reporter for the news website Majzooban-e-Noor, was charged with “propagating against the regime” and having unlawful contact with the U.S. government-funded Radio Farda, according to his employer. His family knew nothing about his whereabouts or condition until a month after his arrest, when they discovered he was being held at the Shiraz Intelligence Office’s Detention Center, his mother, Shokoofeh Yadollahi, told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. After repeated attempts, she said, they were allowed to visit him.
Nouri awaited trial in prison on the initial counts. In a separate case, the Shiraz Criminal Court convicted Nouri of “creating public anxiety” and “publishing falsehoods,” in connection with his work, according to Majzooban-e-Noor. The court sentenced him to one year in prison on those counts.
Majzooban-e-Noor covers news about the Gonabadi dervishes’ religious community. Nouri had reported that security and intelligence forces had incited local residents to attack the dervishes during a September 2011 confrontation, causing one death and injuries to several others, according to Majzooban-e-Noor. Many dervishes, including several other journalists with Majzooban-e-Noor, were imprisoned immediately after the 2011 crackdown.
Nouri has developed respiratory problems during his imprisonment at Adel Abad Prison in Shiraz, according to reformist news websites. The journalist began waging a hunger strike in April 2013 to protest the transfer to solitary confinement of several Majzooban-e Noor journalists, according to Majzooban-e Noor.
Mahsa Amrabadi, freelance
Imprisoned: May 9, 2012
Amrabadi, a reporter for several reformist publications including Etemad-e-Melli, was summoned to Evin Prison women’s ward to serve a one-year prison sentence, according to reformist news websites.
Amrabadi was first arrested in June 2009 and released two months later on bail of US$200,000, according to the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. In October 2010, she was sentenced to one year in prison and a four-year suspended term on charges of “propaganda against the regime,” according to reformist news websites. She was arrested again briefly in February 2011 and released on bail, according to news reports. In February 2012, an appeals court upheld her sentence.
Her husband, Massoud Bastani, who is also a journalist, is serving a six-year prison term at Rajaee Shahr Prison, CPJ research shows. Bastani was released on furlough in March 2013.
Rahman Bouzari, Shargh
Imprisoned: May 19, 2012
Authorities summoned Bouzari, an editor for the reformist daily Shargh and contributor to several reformist news websites, to serve a two-year prison term, according to reformist news websites.
Bouzari was initially arrested in late May 2011, according to reformist news websites. Security forces raided his Tehran home and confiscated his laptop and other personal belongings, news reports said. He was released on bail and later sentenced to two years in prison and 74 lashes by a Tehran Revolutionary Court on charges of “propagating against the regime,” the reports said.
Nassour Naghipour, Human Rights Activists News Agency
Imprisoned: July 9, 2012
Naghipour, a reporter and Web editor for the Human Rights Activists News Agency, was serving a seven-year term at Evin Prison on anti-state charges related to his work in documenting violations of human rights, according to news reports.
Naghipour, 30, also established and managed a website that collected Farsi articles in different areas of humanities, philosophy, politics, and literature, according to reformist news websites.
Zhila Bani-Yaghoub, Sarmayeh
Imprisoned: September 2, 2012
Bani-Yaghoub, a former editor of the banned reformist daily Sarmayeh and editor-in-chief of the Iranian Women’s Club, a news website focusing on women’s rights, began serving a one-year prison term in September 2012 in Evin Prison’s women’s ward, according to news reports. She had been sentenced in 2010 on charges of “propagating against the regime,” and “insulting the president” in connection with articles she wrote during the June 2009 contested presidential elections. Her sentence also included a 30-year ban on practicing journalism.
Bani-Yaghoub was first arrested in June 2009 with her husband, Bahman Ahmadi Amouee, a journalist who had contributed to several reformist newspapers. Bani-Yaghoub was released on bail in August 2009, but Amouee was sentenced to a five-year term on anti-state charges. Amouee was released on furlough in March 2013, according to news reports.
In 2009, Bani-Yaghoub was awarded the Courage in Journalism Prize by the International Women’s Media Foundation and in 2010 was a recipient of the Freedom of Speech Award from Reporters Without Borders.
In March 2013, Bani-Yaghoub was denied furlough for Iranian New Year, reports said.
Shiva Nazar Ahari, Committee of Human Rights Reporters
Imprisoned: September 8, 2012
Nazar Ahari, a blogger and founding member of the Committee of Human Rights Reporters, an organization of journalists documenting human rights abuses, was summoned by authorities to begin serving her prison sentence in the women’s ward of Tehran’s Evin Prison, the committee reported.
In 2010, Nazar Ahari was sentenced to six years in prison on charges of moharebeh, or “waging war against God,” “propagating against the regime,” and “acting against national security” for reporting on political gatherings, according to the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. In January 2011, an appeals court reduced her sentence to four years in prison and 74 lashes, news reports said.
Nazar Ahari was first arrested in June 2009 and spent several months in Evin Prison, including time in solitary confinement, news reports said. She was a 2011 recipient of the Theodor Haecker Prize for “courageous Internet reporting on human rights violations.”
Nazar Ahari was granted a three-day furlough for the Iranian New Year on March 12, 2013, according to the Committee of Human Rights Reporters website. She has since returned to prison, news reports said.
Kaveh Taheri, freelance
Imprisoned: September 23, 2012
Police arrested Taheri, 30, and charged him with “acting against national security” and “creating public anxiety in the virtual space” in connection with his blog, called Pouyesh, his sister, Laleh Taheri, told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.
Taheri was not a member of any group and engaged in no political activities, according to his sister. “He only has a blog, in which he wrote his opinions on the country’s issues,” she said. The blog has since been taken down from the Web, she said.
Security forces confiscated Taheri’s notes, personal hard drive, and a journalist ID for the news website EuroNews after his arrest, reports said. His sister told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran that authorities then filed additional charges against the blogger, including “reporting for the news agency.” She said Taheri had not yet begun reporting for EuroNews.
Taheri is being held at Adel Abad Prison in Shiraz, news reports said.
Mehdi Khazali, freelance
Imprisoned: October 30, 2012
Khazali, a critical blogger, was sentenced in February 2012 to 14 years in prison, 10 years in exile, and 90 lashes after being convicted of “insulting the supreme leader,” according to human rights groups. Authorities summoned Khazali to Evin Prison in October to begin serving the sentence, reformist news websites said.
Khazali, the son of a high-ranking cleric, had criticized the regime on his blog, which has since been hacked, CPJ research shows.
He was initially arrested in January 2012. His wife told the reformist news website Jonbesh-e Rah-e Sabz that he was beaten during the arrest and suffered a fractured arm, broken teeth, and a knee injury. He was held in solitary confinement in Evin Prison for three weeks until he was transferred to the prison’s general population, news reports said. In late February 2012, Khazali suffered a heart attack while waging a hunger strike and was taken to a Tehran hospital for treatment, according to news reports. He was furloughed in March 2012.
Khazali began waging a hunger strike in early 2013, according to reformist news website Kaleme. His son, Mohammad Saleh Khazali, said the journalist’s overall health has deteriorated in custody.
Alireza Roshan, Shargh
Imprisoned: November 18, 2012
Roshan, a reporter for the reformist daily Shargh, was summoned to Evin Prison to serve a one-year prison term, according to the reformist news website Kaleme.
Roshan was initially arrested in September 2011 following violent confrontations between plainclothes security forces and Gonabadi dervishes in Fars Province, according to the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. Roshan spent more than a month in solitary confinement in Evin Prison before he was released on bail, according to reformist news websites.
In October, a Tehran Revolutionary Court sentenced Roshan to one year in prison and a four-year suspended prison term for his cooperation with the Majzooban-e Noor news website on charges of “assembly and collusion with the intent to disrupt national security,” reformist news websites said.
Mehrdad Sarjoui, Iran News
Imprisoned: November 28, 2012
Sarjoui was initially arrested in July 2011 and sentenced by a Revolutionary Court in Tehran to 10 years in prison on charges of “cooperating with enemy states,” according to the reformist news site Kaleme. He was detained for 10 months and freed on bail in May 2012, the reports said. In August 2012, an appeals court reduced his sentence to three years in prison and seven years’ suspended imprisonment. He was summoned to begin serving his term in November 2012, news reports said.
Sarjoui covered international news for the English-language daily Iran News and other publications. He had previously worked in the international relations department of the government’s Strategic Research Center, according to the U.S. government-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Staff members for the research agency had access to politically sensitive material, which placed them under intense scrutiny by government security agents.
The journalist is being held at Evin Prison.
Khosrow Kordpour, Mukrian News Agency
Imprisoned: March 7, 2013
Massoud Kordpour, freelance
Imprisoned: March 8, 2013
Intelligence forces arrested Khosrow Kordpour, editor-in-chief of the Mukrian News Agency, an outlet that covers the arrests and prosecutions of Kurdish activists and documents human rights violations. The U.S. government-funded Radio Farda reported that authorities had a warrant for his arrest and also searched his home, but did not offer further details.
Kordpour’s brother, freelance journalist Massoud Kordpour, was arrested at the Boukan Intelligence Office the next day, when he went to inquire about the imprisonment of his brother. Authorities later searched his home and confiscated personal items. Massoud Kordpour had frequently covered human rights in Kurdistan province, and his work has been published by RFI Persian, Deutsche Welle Persian, Voice of America Persian, and on local and Kurdish-language websites.
Massoud was held in solitary confinement and then transferred to Mahabad Prison in Azerbaijan Province.
Both journalists were transferred to Orumiyeh Prison on March 26, 2013, according to Kurdpa and Radio Zamaneh.
Neither journalist has been allowed access to his lawyer or family members, according to the independent press service Human Rights Activist News Agency. Another brother, As’ad, told Kurdpa on April 11, 2013, that a judge had forbidden the journalists’ family from visiting the brothers.
Authorities did not disclose their health or any charges against them.
Sherif Mansour is CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. CPJ researchers provided reporting for the capsules of imprisoned journalists.