Press freedom violations recounted in real time January 2016Published by International Liberty Association on October 20, 2016
10.10.2016 – Two journalists released provisionally
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is relieved to learn that two journalists, Sadra Mohghgh and Ehssan Mazndarani, have been released provisionally in the past eight days. Mohghgh, who is responsible for coverage of social issues at the daily newspaper Shargh, was freed on bail on 2 October pending trial. He had been arrested on 19 September.
Mazndarani, the editor of the newspaper Farhikhteghan, was released provisionally yesterday so that he could be hospitalized, because his health has worsened as result of being on hunger strike for 18 days. One of several journalists arrested on 2 November 2015, he was given a seven-year jail sentence that was reduced on appeal to two years. His lawyer said he should be granted a proper conditional release.
Two other victims of the November 2015 wave of arrests who are still detained, Issa Saharkhiz, the former editor of several reformist newspapers, and Afarin Chitsaz, a journalist with the newspaper Iran, are both ill and are being denied the treatment they need. A week ago, Saharkhiz began his second hunger strike in less than six month in protest against his arrest and continuing detention. He has been in a Tehran hospital since 10 March.
28.09.2016 – Journalist sentenced to seven months in prison
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is outraged to learn that Souroush Farhadian, a contributor to several pro-reform newspapers and editor of the bimonthly Ro Beh Ro (Opposite), was sentenced on 23 September to seven months in prison. He has appealed against his conviction.
Farhadian was summoned and arrested by prosecutors in the central city of Arak on 15 May as a result of a complaint by “a military entity” and was then released on bail after being charged with anti-government publicity and “activities threatening national security.”
His lawyer said he was secretly tried in connection with articles denouncing the illegality of the detention of Mir Hossein Mousavi, a former prime minister and owner of the now closed newspaper Kalameh Sabaz, Zahra Rahnavard, who is a writer and Mousavi’s wife, and Mehdi Karoubi, owner of the now closed newspaper Etemad Melli. Mousavi and Karoubi, who are both also former presidential candidates, have been under house arrest and deprived of all their rights since February 2011. Their state of health is a source of great concern.
02.09.2016 – Website closed after revelations about Tehran city hall corruption
The Committee for Determining Content that Constitutes Internet Crime, which is headed by prosecutor-general, ordered the closure of the Memarinews website yesterday, after it published documents about the Tehran city hall’s sale of city-owned land and apartments to senior officials and municipal council members. Published on 29 August, the documents included letters from the Government Accounting Office criticizing disparities between the sale price and real value of the properties.
Several leading figures, including Tehran mayor (and former Revolutionary Guard commander) Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf and municipal council president Mehdi Chameran, filed a complaint against Memarinews on the same day that the documents were published. It accused the site of defamation and publishing false information.
Memarinews editor Yashar Soltani was summoned before the culture and media court just hours after the revelations. Then, in an open letter to the prosecutor-general yesterday, the mayor requested “a more thorough investigation into the published revelations, used by enemy media within Iran and abroad.” He also requested a severe punishment for those responsible the corruption, if any corruption is proved, or otherwise for those responsible for publishing the lies. The decision ordering the website closed until further notice was issued later yesterday.
29.08.2016 – Legislator punches newspaper reporter
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is appalled to learn that Ehssan Bodaghi, a reporter for the newspaper Iran, was assaulted in a corridor of the Iranian parliament yesterday by Nader Ghazipour, a hardline parliamentarian from Orumiyeh, the capital of West Azerbaijan province.
When Bodaghi started to ask Ghazipour about the creation of a group of Azeri-speaking parliamentarians, Ghazipour reacted by punching him several times in the face and then dragged him to the office of the parliament’s security service. Security officers released Bodaghi an hour later after deleting his audio recordings and making him sign an undertaking “not to start fights.” Witnesses of the incident nonetheless said Bodaghi had just put questions to Ghazipour, who responded by accusing him of being “one of the reformers who are against Islam.”
Ghazipour has a history of violence. During the last parliamentary elections in February, he told a meeting: “Parliament is not a place for women. It is a place for men (…) We did not easily win [this revolution] and get control of the country in order to now send foxes, children or little donkeys to parliament. Parliament is not a place for donkeys.”
When a video of him making these comments was posted on social networks, it prompted an outcry and calls for him to be declared ineligible. Although he subsequently apologized to the women of Orumiyeh on his Instagram account, he threatened those who had “spied, recorded and posted the video.” A few days later, Aina News director Hamed Atai and the journalist who had distributed the video were attacked on a street in Orumiyeh by Ghazipour supporters.
22.08.2016 – Court upholds decision to flog blogger
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is appalled to learn that an appeal court in the city of Saveh, in central Iran, has upheld a lower court’s decision that the Saveh-based journalist and blogger Mohammad Reza Fathi should be flogged because of his posts about city officials.
Under the original ruling handed down on 13 April, Fathi was sentenced to 444 lashes (to be administered in six sessions of 74 lashes) on charges of defamation and publishing false information. In its 12 July ruling, the appeal court confirmed the decision to flog Fathi but modified the sentence. It sentenced him to three sessions of 77 lashes for defamation and three sessions of 76 lashes for publishing false information – for an increased total of 459 lashes.
But the appeal court added that only the second sentence (three sessions of 76 lashes) will be administered in accordance with article 134 of the new Islamic penal code (as amended in 2013), which says that when a defendant is given more than one sentence on criminal charges, only the sentence corresponding to the gravest charge is implemented.
RSF again calls on the judicial authorities to overturn this sentence, which is inhumane and medieval, and contrary to international law.
Read the entry of 30.06.2016 – Iranian blogger sentenced to 444 lashes
16.08.2016 – Journalist gets three years, another trial pending
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is outraged to learn that Issa Saharkhiz, a well-known independent journalist who edited several reformist newspapers, wassentenced to a total of three years in prison by a Tehran revolutionary court on 9 August.
His lawyer, Mahmoud Alizadeh-Tabatabaie, said Saharkhiz was given two years on a charge of anti-government propaganda and one year for “insulting Ali Khamenei, the Islamic Revolution’s Supreme Leader.” Two other pending charges against Saharkhiz – publishing false news and insulting the head of the judicial system – are to be tried separately as political crimes before a court of assizes, the lawyer added.
Saharkhiz was one of several journalists who were arrested on 2 November 2015. He has been in a Tehran hospital since 10 March after suffering a heart attack and going on hunger strike.
Often proposed since the 1979 revolution, the controversial law on political crimes was finally adopted by the Iranian parliament in May. This law violates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (which Iran has signed) and other international norms.