Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has condemned the latest crackdown on journalists in Iran, describing it as a new wave of media suppression in the country.
A recent spate of arrests of journalists has included Ms. Saba Azarpeyk, a former reporter with the pro-reformist daily Etemad, freelance journalist Ejlal Qawami, and Massoud Kazemi, a reporter with the pro-reformist daily Sharq. The managing editor of the Kurdish minority outlet Hiwa News, Kazem Imanzadeh, was summoned for questioning by judicial officials.
“We call for the immediate release of journalists held arbitrarily and urge the regime to stop suppressing the freedom to inform,” said Reza Moini, the head of RSF’s Iran/Afghanistan desk.
Ms. Azarpeyk had recently accused the former minister of Industry, Mines, and Trade, Mohammad Shariatmadari, of financial corruption, and published several documents supporting her claims.
"She was arrested by the Ministry of Intelligence agents during a raid on her home October 29 and her accounts on Twitter and the encrypted messaging app Telegram were shut down shortly thereafter,” RSF’s statement read.
Azarpeyk, according to RSF, "Had just accused newly appointed Labor Minister Mohammad Shariatmadari—a former Mines, Industry, and Commerce minister with a murky intelligence agency background—of corruption and favoritism. Posted on social networks with supporting documents, her accusations came just before a vote of confidence in parliament October 27 and caused a major stir online and within Iran’s political class.”
Ms. Azarpeyk was freed on bail on October 31. She had previously been arrested in May 2014, and spent more than 80 days in solitary confinement before being released on a two billion rial (roughly $48,000) bail.
Massoud Kazemi was arrested November 5, and his relatives and attorney still do not know his whereabouts or the reason for his detention. Kazemi was an outspoken critic of both the conservative and reformist camps that dominate Iran’s politics. His Twitter account is currently blocked by the Islamic Republic's authorities.
The recent crackdown on journalists in Iran is not isolated to the capital, Tehran. In Sanandaj, in the province of Kurdistan, freelance journalist Ejlal Qawami was sentenced to eight months in prison September 16, charged with “publishing false information designed to trouble public opinion.” He was arrested after posting three articles on social networks about the situation of prisoners of conscience in the Kurdistan province, according to RSF.
Kazem Imanzadeh, managing director of Hiwanews, which focuses on news concerning the Iranian Kurdish minority, was summoned for questioning by judicial officials in Sanandaj October 6, after the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) filed a complaint against him making the same accusation as had been made against Qawami. He was released pending a decision by the court.
Iran is ranked 164th out of 180 countries according to RSF’s 2018 World Press Freedom Index.