The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has condemned a five-year prison sentence recently imposed on Iranian journalist Yashar Soltani and called on Iran to stop persecuting journalists for doing their job.
"Jailing a journalist for reporting about corruption in his country is unacceptable and will only ensure that corruption continues unchecked," CPJ Middle East and North Africa program coordinator Sherif Mansour said in a statement released on January 25.
On January 23, an Iranian court sentenced journalist Soltani, who had investigated corruption in municipal real-estate sales in Tehran, to five years in prison after finding him guilty of "spreading lies" and "gathering classified information with the intent to harm national security."
Soltani was also banned from participating in political and media activities, or traveling outside the country for two years after his release, Iranian media reported.
The sentence can be appealed within 20 days.
Soltani called the sentence "unjust" in a January 23 tweet, while vowing to "turn the verdict into an opportunity to fight corruption" in the country.
“We will not hand over Iran to the corrupt," he said on Twitter.
Soltani was first arrested over his reporting on municipal land deals in September 2016, after former Tehran Mayor Mohammad-Baqer Qalibaf and municipal council chairman Mehdi Chamran filed a lawsuit against him.
He was released about two months later on bail.
Eight journalists were found to be imprisoned in Iran in direct relation to their work at the time of the CPJ's December 2018 prison census.
Iran ranks 164th on Reporters Without Borders 2018 World Press Freedom Index.
The Paris-based media watchdog calls Iran "one of the world's five biggest prisons for journalists and citizen-journalists."