Penalties for selling banned books, or other publications (January 1998 - July 2000) [IRN34930.E]

In correspondence dated 9 August 2000, a professor of Political Science at Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama, who specializes in Iranian politics and is a past Executive Director of the Center for Iranian Research and Analysis (CIRA), wrote:

Penalties that are applied for selling banned books vary, and they largely depend on the presiding judge in a particular case. The most severe penalties apply for selling books published by or in support of the Mujahedin-e Khalq and other groups that are actively engaged in armed combat against the Iranian government. I am not aware of any case since 1997 that has resulted in long prison sentences for selling banned books. In fact, in today's Iran, almost any book can be obtained; even those that are officially banned can be purchased through several channels.

No further information on the penalties for selling banned books, or other publications, could be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

There are numerous reports of the banning of newspapers (Country Reports 1999 25 Feb. 2000, section 2 a.; IFEX 8 Aug. 2000a; Los Angeles Times 15 Oct. 1998), as well as reports of the banning of books (NPR 20 Aug. 1998; DPA 2 July 1999; RFE/RL Iran Report 3 Apr. 2000). There are also numerous reports of the arrest, detention, and sentencing of journalists and newspaper publishers (Amnesty International 30 Nov. 1999; IFEX 20 Apr. 2000; The Tribune 25 Apr. 2000; Dawn 24 Apr. 2000).

What follows are some reports of the sentences received by journalists beginning in September 1999. The publisher of the "liberal daily Neshat," Latif Safari, was sentenced in September 1999 to two and a half years in jail (IFEX 27 Sept. 1999; Dawn 26 Sept. 1999). International Freedom of Exchange (IFEX) reported that it was a "suspended prison sentence" (27 Sept. 1999) He received

one year for "insulting basic tenets of the Holy Quran and sacred values," one year for "inciting students and people to revolt and strike" in July's unrest in Tehran, three months for slandering the conservative police chief and three months for insulting members of parliament. It was not immediately clear whether the sentences would run consecutively (Dawn 26 Sept. 1999).

He was also banned from journalism for five years (ibid.). In April 2000 Latif's appeal was refused by Tehran's press court (Dawn 24 Apr. 2000; The Tribune 25 Apr. 2000). The Tribune reported that he "was detained in Tehran's Evin prison yesterday" (ibid.(, while Dawn wrote that he "was whisked off to prison after the hearing" (24 Apr. 2000). IFEX also reported that he was taken to Evin prison after an appellate court upheld his 30-month conviction (25 Apr. 2000).

Abdollah Nouri, the director of the daily Khordad was sentenced by the Special Court for Clergy to five years imprisonment for "anti-Islamic propaganda" and fined 15 million Rials (approximately US$8,600) and was also banned from working as a journalist for five years (IFEX 29 Nov. 1999; Amnesty International 30 Nov. 1999). Machallah Chamsolvaezine (Mashallah Shamsolva'ezin), Neshat editor-in-chief, received a three-year prison sentence and a 12 million Rial fine (approximately US$6,900) from the Press Court, for publishing articles that opposed the death penalty (ibid.; IFEX 29 Nov. 1999). At the time of this report IFEX wrote that two journalists remained in jail:

Mohsen Kadivar, sentenced to eighteen months' imprisonment in April for 'propaganda against the regime', following the publication of his articles favouring the separation of politics from religion, and Hechmatollah Tabarzadi, editor-in-chief of 'Hoviyat-é-Khich', arrested in June for having published a religious person's letter accusing conservatives of murdering intellectuals and journalists at the end of 1998. Tabarzadi is allegedly still detained without having been referred to the court" (29 Nov. 1999).

On 10 April 2000, at the Appeals Court, Chamsolvaezine was sentenced to two and a half years' imprisonment for "attacking Islam" (IFEX 20 Apr. 2000).

Emadeddin Baghi, described by IFEX as "a leading Iranian reporter" for the official Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), was sentenced in July 2000 to five and half years in prison for

publishing articles that "questioned the validity of...Islamic law," with "threatening national security, and...for spreading unsubstantiated news stories" about the role of "agents of the Intelligence Ministry in the serial murder of intellectuals and dissidents in 1998" (18 July 2000).

In July 2000 Mohsen Kadivar, a contributor to the closed daily Khordad, was released from prison after completing his 18 month sentence for "...'disseminating lies' and 'misleading public opinion'..." (IFEX 18 July 2000). In this report IFEX stated that

at least five Iranian journalists remain in prison on charges related to their professional work. In addition to Emadeddin Baghi, they include the publisher, Abdullah Nouri; editor, Mashallah Shamsolvaezin; investigative reporter, Akbar Ganji and managing editor, Latif Safari (ibid.).

On 26 July 2000 IFEX reported the evaluation by Reporters sans frontières that "today Iran has the sorry record of the country which has the greatest number of journalists imprisoned in the Middle East. Nine professionals are detained in Tehran."

On 1 August 2000 IFEX reported the sentencing of Mohammed Reza Zohdi, director of the banned daily Arya, to four months in prison and payment of a fine for "'libel', 'spreading lies', and 'violating the election law'."

On 7 August 2000 the weekly "Chesmeh Ardebil in northwestern Iran was suspended for four months on charges of 'disturbing public opinion' and 'insulting Islamic sanctities'" and its director, Naser Jafari, was fined one million rials (US$125) (IFEX 8 Aug. 2000b).

IFEX reported on 8 August 2000a that Ahmad Hakimi-Pour, director of the weekly Omid-e-Zanjan was sentenced to two months in prison and banned for a year from journalistic activity by the press court of Tehran for insulting the commander of the Guardians of the Revolution.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Amnesty International. 30 November 1999. "Iranian Courts Used to Suppress Political Opinion and Journalistic Freedom." (AI Index: MDE 13/29/99)

Dawn [[Karachi]. 24 April 2000. "Iran Court Bans Three Newspapers." [Accessed 24 Apr. 2000]

_____. 26 September 1999. "Pro-Khatami Paper Banned, Owner Jailed." [Accessed 27 Sept. 1999]

Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA). 2 July 1999. "Iranian Author Golshiri Awarded German Peace Prize." (NEXIS)

International Freedom of Exchange (IFEX). 8 August 2000a. "Press Release/Update: RSF Concerned About State of Press Freedom, Monthly's Former Contributor Temporarily Detained." [Accessed 9 Aug. 2000]

_____.8 August 2000b. "Action Alert and Update: CPJ Protests Decision to Quash Parliamentary Bill Aimed at Amending Press Laws, Suspension of Pro-Reform Weekly." [Accessed 9 Aug. 2000]

_____. 1 August 2000. "Alert: A Tenth Journalist Imprisoned." [Accessed 9 Aug. 2000]

_____. 26 July 2000. "Alert: Twentieth Reformist Newspaper Shut Down." [Accessed 9 Aug. 2000]

_____. 18 July 2000. "Press Release/Update: CPJ Condemns Conviction of Journalist Emadeddin Baghi." [Accessed 9 Aug. 2000]

_____.25 April 2000. "Press Release/Alert: Press Crackdown Intensifies, Fourteen Newspapers Closed, Two Journalists Imprisoned." [Accessed 9 Aug. 2000]

_____. 20 April 2000. "Press Release/Update: Repeated Attacks on the Reformist Press." [Accessed 9 Aug. 2000]

_____.29 November 1999. "Alert Update: Eleven Journalists Jailed, Eight Others Taken in for Questioning in 1999." [Accessed 9 Aug. 2000]

_____.27 September 1999. "Alert Update: 'Neshat' Director receives Two and a Half Year Suspended Prison Sentence." [Accessed 9 Aug. 2000]

Los Angeles Times. 15 October 1998. John Daniszewski. "Iranian Publishers Fear New Crackdown; Media: Year of Relative Freedom Ends With Arrests of 4 Staff Members From Outspoken Newspaper." (NEXIS)

National Public Radio (NPR). 20 August 1998. Eric Weiner. "Iran Relaxing Restrictions." (NEXIS)

Professor of Political Science, Spring Hill College, Mobile Alabama. 9 August 2000. Correspondence.

RFE/RL Iran Report [Prague]. 3 April 2000. William Samii. Vol. 3, No. 14. "MOIS Chief on Reforms and Serial Murders." [Accessed 4 Apr. 2000]

The Tribune [Chandigarh]. 25 April 2000. "Iran's Crackdown on Press 8 Dailies, 4 Journals Suspended." [Accessed 26 Apr. 2000]

Additional Sources Consulted

Iran Daneshjoo Organization News Service, Student Movement Coordination Committee for Democracy in Iran, Mar.- Aug. 2000.

IRB databases



Resource Centre. Iran country file. April 1998 - July 2000.

_____. Iran: Amnesty International country file. July 1998 - July 2000.

RFE/RL Iran Report. Nov. 1998 - July 2000

World News Connection (WNC)

Unsuccessful attempts to contact 9 non-documentary sources

Internet sites including:

PEN Canada

Associated documents