Islamic Republic jails two more women journalists

Reporters Without Borders is outraged to learn that journalists and cyber-dissidents, Shiva Nazar Ahari and Jila Bani Yaghoob, have been arrested in the past eight days to begin serving jail sentences previously imposed by revolutionary courts. Their arrests bring to five the number of women journalists detained in Iran.

The Islamic Republic of Iran holds the world record for imposing jail terms on women journalists and bloggers. At least 57 have been arrested and sentenced to sentences ranging from six months to seven years in prison by revolutionary courts since President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s disputed reelection in June 2009.

Young cyber-dissident

A 27-year-old human rights activist and editor of the Azad Zan (Freed Women) website, Ahari was summoned on 8 September to Tehran’s Evin prison, where she was arrested to begin serving the four-year jail sentence that was confirmed on appeal on 28 January 2011. Convicted of plotting against national security and anti-government propaganda, she was also sentenced to 74 lashes.

Originally arrested on 14 June 2009 and held for five months, she was re-arrested on 20 December 2009 and was finally released on bail of 500 million toman (500 euros) on 12 September 2010 pending the outcome of her appeal.

Journalism pioneer

Arrested on 2 September to begin serving a one-year sentence in Evin prison, Yaghoob has been a journalist since 1994, working for many reformist newspapers that are now closed, writing more than 3,000 articles and covering Lebanon, Afghanistan and Iraq.

She has been arrested several times in the course of her career and has been repeatedly harassed by the authorities because of her coverage of sensitive issues, including discrimination against women and political protests.

Her "We are journalists" blog was awarded the "Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom" prize in the 2010 BOBs (Best of Blogs) competition organized by the German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle in Berlin. In 2009, she won the International Women’s Media Foundation’s "Courage in Journalism Award" as well as the International Press Freedom Award from "Canadian Journalists for Freedom of Expression."

Her latest ordeal began when she and her husband, fellow journalist Bahaman Ahamadi Amoee, were arrested on 20 June 2009. Yaghoob was released on bail on 24 August 2009 but her husband remained in detention and was given a five-year jail sentence for articles critical of the Ahmadinejad administration.

Yaghoob received her one-year jail sentence from a Tehran court on 20 October 2010. The court also banned her from working as a journalist for 30 years.

Detained journalist couples

Yaghoob and Amoee are not the only journalist couple to be in prison at the same time. The journalist Mahssa Amrabadi has been serving a two-year jail sentence since 9 May while her husband Masoud Bastani, a journalist with the daily Farhikhteghan, has been held since 4 July 2009 and is serving the six-year sentence he received on 1 November 2009 in one of the Stalinist-style trials held in Tehran.

Bastani was given temporary permission to leave prison yesterday to receive medical treatment. He has requested permission to visit his wife in her prison.

Both of the women journalists, Yaghoob and Amrabadi, are being held in Evin prison while both of their husbands are serving their sentences in Rajaishahr prison, regarded as one of the country’s harshest jails because of its many reported cases of torture, rape and murder. Both Bastani and Amoee have always been denied visits.