Developments in the past two weeks confirm that the Iranian government is continuing its relentless crackdown on the media. A journalist was arrested for the second time in a year and courts imposed or upheld jail sentences on two women journalists whose journalist husbands are already in prison.
Two of these developments took place on 22 October, just two days after Reporters Without Borders released its annual press freedom index, in which Iran was ranked 175th out of 178 countries.
One was a raid by intelligence ministry officials on the home of Mohammad Reza Moghisseh, the editor of Biste Saleha and a contributor to various other pro-reform media, who was taken away to an unknown location.
A member of a committee that has been monitoring arrests and human rights violations since the disputed June 2009 presidential election, Moghisseh was previously arrested on 14 October 2009 and spent 150 days in solitary confinement in Tehran’s Evin prison. Sentenced to six years in prison by a Tehran revolutionary court, he was released on bail on 1 March pending the outcome of his appeal.
The other development on 22 October was a Tehran appeal court decision to uphold the sentence of one year in prison followed by a 30-year ban on working as a journalist which a Tehran revolutionary court imposed earlier this year on blogger and reporter Jila Bani Yaghoob. She had been notified of the revolutionary court’s sentence on 8 June.
Yaghoob and her husband, Bahaman Ahamadi Amoee, were arrested on 20 June 2009 along with around 20 other journalists during the demonstrations that followed the presidential election held eight days earlier. She was released on 24 August 2009 but her husband remained in detention and was given a five-year jail sentence.
Yaghoob’s “We are journalists” blog was a winner in the “Reporters Without Borders Freedom of Expression” category in this year’s international “Best of the Blogs” competition that Deutsche Welle organized in Berlin from 13 to 15 April.
The other woman journalist, Mahssa Amrabadi, was sentenced to a year in prison by a Tehran revolutionary court on 14 October. Arrested on 14 June 2009, two days after the presidential election, she was released on 22 August 2009 on bail of 200 million toman (165,000 euros).
Her journalist husband, Masoud Bastani of the daily Farhikhteghan, is in Rajaishahr prison. Arrested on 4 July 2009, he was tried along many other journalists in the Stalinist-style mass trials that the government began organizing in Tehran in August 2009. A revolutionary court sentenced him to six years in prison on 1 November 2009.
Journalist Hider Karimi of Sina, a weekly that has been closed since December 2009, was meanwhile released on 21 October on bail of 220 million toman (151,000 euros) after four months in prison. He was arrested on 9 June when intelligence ministry officials in plain clothes raided his home in the northwestern city of Khoy.