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Iran intensifying crackdown on reporters covering rights protests, warns media watchdog

Protesters hold placards at a march in central London on January 8, 2023 against the Iranian regime, on the third anniversary of the downing of Ukrainian passenger jet, flight PS752, shortly after it's takeoff from Tehran. (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP)
  • Drop dubious charges, says Committee to Protect Journalist
  • Long prison sentences, lashes, bans on work and travel

LONDON: Media advocacy group, the Committee to Protect Journalists, has urged Iran’s government to stop its increasing prosecution and abuse of reporters covering the country’s human rights protests.

“Iranian authorities must drop all the dubious charges against journalists detained for covering protests in the country, and should free them immediately and unconditionally,” said Sherif Mansour, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa program coordinator.

“By issuing heavy sentences against journalists, in some cases in excess of what the law allows, authorities are showing the lengths they are willing to go to silence the press.”

Since the beginning of the protests in mid-September that erupted across the country following the death of a 22-year-old woman, Mahsa Amini, Iran’s authorities have arrested 88 journalists, according to the media group.

Sources said authorities accused journalists of “spreading propaganda against the ruling system” and “colluding and acting against national security.” The reporters were given heavy sentences including long prison terms, lashes with whips, bans on working or leaving the country, and mandatory community service.

Under the Iranian penal code, the sentence for disseminating propaganda carries a prison term of up to one year, and for collusion up to five years.

However, the CPJ reported that most members of the press have received sentences in excess of the legal maximum for these two offenses.

The media watchdog also confirmed that at least five people — freelance reporters Vida Rabbani and Mehrnoosh Tafian, and photojournalists Aria Jaffari, Yalda Moaiery and Ahmadreza Halabisaz — received harsher sentences but are free while their appeals are pending.

According to the CPJ, journalists imprisoned in Iran have been frequently denied legal representation and due process, and those fortunate enough to be released on bail are often forced to pay exorbitant sums.