Press freedom violations recounted in real time (from July to December 2010)
11/02/2011 - New wave of arrests, crackdown on media
The Iranian authorities launched a new wave of arrests of journalists in the run-up to a demonstration called by government opponents for 14 February in solidarity with the Egyptian and Tunisian peoples. At least four journalists and bloggers have been arrested in Tehran since 9 February:
Taghi Rahmani, an independent journalist and staunch free speech activist, was arrested at his Tehran home on 9 February.
Meisam Mohammadi and Omid Mohadess, journalists with the Behesti foundation’s website (http://www.beheshti.org/), were arrested at their homes by plain-clothes police on 10 February. It is not yet known why they were arrested or where they are being held.
Mazyar Khosravi of the daily Shargh was arrested at his workplace on 11 February by intelligence ministry agents.
According to the information obtained by Reporters Without Borders, a number of journalists and bloggers have also been summoned for questioning by Revolutionary Guards and intelligence ministry officials in various parts of the country.
31.12.2010 - World’s youngest detained blogger granted conditional release
A revolutionary court in the northern city of Amol granted Navid Mohebbi, the world’s youngest detained blogger (http://en.rsf.org/iran-world-s-youn...), a conditional release on 25 December after giving him a three-year suspended prison sentence on charges of “actions against national security” and insulting the Islamic Republic’s founder and current leader by means of “foreign media.”
Aged 18, Mohebbi was arrested on 18 September. His trial began behind closed doors on 14 November without his lawyer being present.
Reporters Without Borders has learned that Ali Khodabaksh, the publisher of the daily Sharght, and Ahmad Gholami, the newspaper’s editor, were released conditionally yesterday pending trial. Several million toman in bail was paid. They were arrested by intelligence ministry officials at the newspaper on 7 December along with foreign editor Farzaneh Roustaei and political editor Keyvan Mehregan, who are still being held in Tehran’s Evin prison.
At a news conference last week, Tehran prosecutor Abass Jafari Dolatabadi accused them of “actions against national security” and wanting to criticise the government in their writings.
Another journalist has meanwhile been arrested. It is Shahram Azmodeh, the editor of the monthly Talesh, who was arrested yesterday in the northern city of Talesh and is now serving a six-month jail sentence that he received as result of a complaint by the local mayor, whom he criticized in an article. The monthly has been suspended for six months.
28.12.2010 - Cartoonist Hadi Heidari freed
Hadi Heidari, a cartoonist who runs the Persian Cartoon (http://www.haditoons.com) website, was released on 26 December, eight days after he and three other supporters of the pro-reform Participation party were arrested in Tehran. Heidari was freed on bail pending trial.
14.12.2010 - Crackdown continues against press in Iran as three journalists are arrested in Tehran, two from the newspaper Shargh.
Intelligence ministry agents arrested Rihaneh Tabatabai, journalist for the daily Shargh, at her home on 12 December 2010. The same day, his colleague Mehran Faraji was arrested and taken to Evin prison. Four more journalists from the same newspaper were arrested at their workplace on 7 December. They were managing editor Ali Khodabaksh, editor in chief Ahmad Gholami, international editor Farzaneh Roustaei and political editor Keyvan Mehregan. No reasons have been given for these arrests.
Reporters Without Borders also learned of the arrest on 9 December of Amir Hadi Anvari, financial journalist on the suspended daily Etemad and for several other reformist newspapers. Mashaallah Shamsolvaezin, spokesman for the Association of Iranian Journalists and the Iranian Committee for the Defence of Freedom of Press, editor of Iran’s first reformist newspapers, has been sentenced to 16 months in prison by the 28th chamber of Tehran’s revolutionary court for “insulting the president of the Republic”. He was also banned from political and journalistic activity. He was arrested at his home by men in plainclothes on 28 December 2009. He had been released on bail while awaiting trial on 28 February 2010.
30 November 2010 - One step forward, one step back
Nima Dehghan, journalist on the weekly Chehel cheragh (40 Lights), was arrested at his home by intelligence ministry officers on 28 November. It is still not known why he was arrested or where he is being held. Chehel cheragh was suspended on 22 November after nine years of publication, by the Press authorisation and Surveillance Commission which comes under the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Orientation. The satirical journalist is known for his humorous articles about the state of the country.
Reporters Without Borders has learned with relief of the release yesterday of Ahmad Reza Ahmadpour, a theologian and director of the website “Silent Echo” (http://www.pejvak-kh.com/), from prison in the holy city of Qom. The mullah and blogger was sentenced to one year in prison on 27 December 2009 for “publishing false information about the regime” and “discrediting the Shiite clergy”. He was “pardoned” one month before the end of his sentence. He went on a 16-day hunger strike in protest against his prison conditions and sent an open letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. He also faced proceedings for a letter that the prosecutor referred to as “publishing false information about the regime.”
Journalist and director of the blog director Paineveste, Henghameh Shahidi, was forced to return to her cell at Evin prison on 15 November after Iran’s judicial authorities refused to extend her medical leave for heart problems, which had allowed her temporary release on bail on 28 October.
23 November 2010 - Reformist weekly suspended in Iran
Iran’s most popular weekly among young people, Chehel cheragh (40 chandeliers), was suspended yesterday by the Press authorisation and Surveillance Commission which comes under the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Orientation. The commission did not specify the reason for the ban in its media statement. But in its latest edition, Chehel cheragh carried an interview with the grand master of Iranian traditional music, Mohammad Reza Shajariyan, who has often made plain his support for the opposition movement, detested by the regime.
The last time the ministry’s official censorship arm ordered such a ban was on 27 September this year, when the daily Andisheh-ye No (New Thought) was permanently closed down. The newspaper had already been suspended on 21 December 2009 after it published articles about Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, the reformist grand ayatollah who died on 20 December 2009, in the holy city of Qom, 60 kilometres south of the capital Tehran, at the age of 87. The Ministry of Culture and Islamic Orientation had issued a decree the previous day forbidding all newspaper editors from mentioning the ayatollah.
4 November 2010 - An arrest and a release
Journalist Nazanin Khosravani, a contributor to several pro-reform newspapers including Bahar, Karghozaran and Sarmayeh, was arrested at her home by intelligence ministry officials on 2 November. Her family has received no news of her since then and still does not know why she is being held.Henghameh Shahidi, the editor of the blog Paineveste, was released provisionally on bail on 28 October on medical grounds. She has a heart ailment and must undergo an operation without delay.
Arrested on 25 February when she responded to an intelligence ministry summons, she was transferred to Evin prison and, two days later, was sentenced by a Tehran court on appeal to six years in prison and a fine of 50,000 tomans.
Shahidi was previously arrested on 29 June 2009, spending 50 days in solitary confinement in Section 209 of Evin prison. A Tehran revolutionary court released her on 2 November 2009 on bail of 9 million tomans (8,000 euros).
19.10.2010 – Two releases
Reporters Without Borders learned on 15 October of the release of Rahim Gholami, contributor to several local newspapers in the city of Ardabil, north-west Iran. He was arrested on 29 October 2009, and sentenced to one year in prison by the first chamber of the Ardabil revolutionary court for “publicity against the regime”.
The organisation was also informed of the release of Alireza Behshti Shirazi, director of the website Kaleme.org, the official site of opposition leader Mirhossein Moussavi, who was arrested at his home in Tehran on 28 December 2009. The journalist was freed on bail of 500,300 million tomans (470,000 euros), while awaiting his trial.
09.09.2010 - Situation
Lawyer for several imprisoned journalists, Nassrin Soutodeh, who was arrested on 5 September for alleged anti-government propaganda and plotting against the regime, was yesterday able to call her family from Evin prison. She told them that she is being held in solitary confinement, her lawyer, Mina Jafari, confirmed to Agence France-Presse.
The reformist weekly Nasir Bushehr, published in Bushehr province in the south of the country for the past 11 years, was banned on 7 September for “publishing articles contrary to the principles of Islam and the Islamic Republic” and “insulting regime leaders by publishing articles, photos and cartoons.” The ban was the decision of Iran’s Commission for press authorisation and surveillance, the censorship arm of the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Orientation.
Cyber-feminist Jila Bani Yaghoob was summoned on 30 August by the 76th chamber of the Tehran court for “insulting the president”, her lawyer, Farideh Gheirat said. She was tried and convicted on the same charge on 8 June this year, and sentenced to one year in prison and a 30-year ban on working as a journalist by the Tehran revolutionary court’s 26th chamber. The prosecutor appealed the verdict and called for Yaghoob to be sentenced for her articles critical of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. It is the third time the journalist and women’s rights activist had been brought before the courts in less than a year.
Jila Bani Yaghoob and her husband Bahaman Ahamadi Amoee were both arrested on 20 June 2009 along with around 20 other journalists during demonstrations that followed the disputed re-election of Ahmadinejad as president. She was freed on 24 August but her husband was jailed for five years.
30 July 2010 - Woman journalist freed on bail after being held for eight weeks
Azam Vismeh, an online journalist who works for Parlemannews, the official website of the pro-reform parliamentarians, was released on 21 July after paying 70 million toman (7,500 euros) in bail. Arrested at her home on 1 June, she had been held in Section 209 of Tehran’s Evin prison.
2nd July 2010 - Two released and one freed on licence
Narges Mohammadi, journalist and spokesperson for the Defenders of Human Rights Centre, was released today on bail of 50 million tomans (40,000 euros). Intelligence ministry agents arrested the journalist, who works with Nobel peace prize laureate, Shirin Ebadi, at her home on the evening of 10 June 2010.
Reporters Without Borders also learned of the release on bail on 26 June, of Mahbobeh Khanssari, who works for the agency Cultural Heritage. She was arrested at her home on 1st June. On the other hand, Azam Vismeh, online journalist with Parlemannews (official website of parliamentary reformists), who was arrested at the same time as her, is still being held in solitary confinement and has been banned from receiving visitors.
Judicial authorities on 24 June allowed a release on licence to seriously ill journalist and documentary maker Mohammad Norizad. He worked for several years as an editorialist on the daily Kayhan, the conservatives leading press organ. Following the disputed re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as president on 12 June 2009, the journalist, who also ran the bloghttp://mohammadnurizad.blogfa.com/, began to be openly critical of Iran’s Supreme Leader as well as the government and the country’s justice system. The 54th chamber of Tehran’s appeal court on 29 May confirmed his sentence of three and a half years in prison and 50 lashes for “publicity against the regime and insulting the authorities”.
Abdolreza Tajik, journalist and member of the Circle for the Defenders of Human Rights, was arrested on 12 June 2010. His family still has not been informed either of the place he is being detained or the reasons for his arrest.