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Elderly Iranian Journalist Begins Prison Term Over Protest Coverage

Kayvan Samimi was arrested in May 2019.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is urging Iran to cease jailing members of the press for their work after a 72-year-old journalist began a three-year prison sentence over his coverage of protests last year.

“Jailing an elderly journalist in the middle of a raging pandemic shows how much contempt the Iranian judiciary has for the press,” CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour said in a statement on December 8, a day after authorities arrested Kayvan Samimi and took him to serve a three-year sentence at Tehran’s Evin prison.

Mansour said Samimi “must be released immediately and unconditionally, as should all of the journalists being held in Iran in retaliation for their reporting.”

Samimi was arrested in Tehran in May 2019 while he was covering labor protests for the Iran-e Farda magazine, where he worked as editor in chief.

He was freed on bail in June 2019 while facing charges of “colluding against national security” and “spreading antiestablishment propaganda.”

In April this year, a Tehran court tried Samimi in absentia, sentencing him to six years in prison.

Another court confirmed his conviction in May but reduced his sentence to three years, a decision that was upheld on further appeal in June.

Samimi previously served six years in prison over his coverage of the contested 2009 presidential election.

Since March, Iranian authorities have granted temporary release to tens of thousands of prisoners following concerns over the spread of the coronavirus in prisons in the Middle East's worst-hit country. Many have since returned behind bars.

With reporting by Radio Farda