Iran - Arbitrary arrests, harassment of exile journalists' families

Reporters Without Borders is very worried about the health of Fariba Pajoh, a journalist with various reformist newspapers and former contributor to Radio France Internationale. Arrested on 9 July, she is now in solitary confinement in Evin prison's Section 209, which is controlled by the intelligence ministry.

Pajoh had been in poor health ever since spending 120 days held incommunicado following her first arrest in 2009. After she was released, she received medical treatment for more than a year.

“Fariba Pajoh was arrested again arbitrarily, probably on the orders of one of her former jailers in the intelligence ministry and clearly without any legal grounds,” Reporters Without Borders was told by Iranian human rights lawyer Shirin Ebadi, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003.

“Unfortunately, Iran's judicial system is not independent,” Ebadi added. “The judges and the courts do as they are told by intelligence officials. This situation constitutes a grave threat to freedom of information in Iran.”

Journalists, dissidents and their families are often the victims of arbitrary arrest or other forms of reprisal. Since the start of the year, Reporters Without Borders has registered more than 70 cases of threats targeting netizens and journalists in exile who work for news media based abroad.

The relatives of citizens regarded as “subversive” are routinely summoned for questioning by intelligence ministry officials or are subjected to harassment and intimidation by means of SMS messages or phone calls.

Farzaneh Nouri, the mother of Farhad Nouri, a journalist with the Sufi news website Majzooban Nor, has been sentenced to two years in prison by a court in the southwestern city of Shiraz, above all because of her son's activities in exile.

Arrested in Shiraz on 10 September 2011 she was released provisionally on bail of 50 million toman (5,500 euros) 21 days later. While held, she was questioned mainly about her son's activities and has repeatedly been harassed by intelligence ministry officials. Her son has meanwhile been suffering from depression in his country of exile.

“We urge the international community and the European Union in particular to react and to take whatever measures are necessary to protect threatened or imprisoned journalists, many of whom work for state-owned media in EU member countries,” Reporters Without Borders said.

“Above all, we appeal to Catherine Ashton, as the EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, to take a firm stand against such premeditated violations of international law by the Iranian government.”

Reporters Without Borders has also learned that documentary filmmaker Mohammad Cherghi – a former journalist with the national radio and TV broadcaster and contributor to various news websites – was arrested on 20 July after being summoned to the intelligence ministry.

He had already been summoned and questioned several times about his activities during the presidential election in June. It is not known where he is being held.