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Iranian journalist Nejat Bahrami has started serving a one-year prison sentence this week, in what the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) called another step by authorities to "muzzle" the press.

Bahrami arrived at Tehran’s Evin Prison on May 18 to begin serving his sentence, according to the Persian service of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ).

It said Bahrami, a freelance columnist who has written for several publications in Iran, was convicted in August 2019 by the Revolutionary Court of Tehran of "spreading propaganda against the system" and "colluding to disturb the public order" over his writing critical of Iran's political establishment.

He was sentenced to one year in prison and a two-year ban on any media activities and joining any political or social factions -- a sentence Bahrami said was upheld by an appeals court last month.

The New York-based CPJ on May 20 urged Iranian authorities to immediately release Bahrami and cease arbitrarily jailing members of the press.

Jailing a journalist during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, "especially one whom authorities already previously released from custody due to health issues, is yet another example of the extreme steps that Iran's judiciary is willing to take to muzzle the press," CPJ Middle East and North Africa program coordinator Sherif Mansour said in a statement.

Bahrami was arrested in December 2018 over his writings in Iranian publications and on social media, before being released on bail due to health complications, including high blood pressure, according to reports.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe poses for a photograph in Tehran following her release.

Iranian authorities have again extended the temporary release of jailed British-Iranian aid worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, her family and lawyer say.

In mid-March, Zaghari-Ratcliffe was temporarily released from Tehran's Evin prison, where she was serving of a five-year sentence for "plotting to topple the Iranian government," a charge she has denied.

The furlough has been extended until May 27, her lawyer told the IRNA news agency on May 20.

Mahmud Behzadirad added that Zaghari-Ratcliffe had been told by judiciary officials that they would decide whether the rest of her sentence will be commuted.

"Nazanin spoke to the Prosecutors Office today. Her furlough from prison has again been extended -- until a decision has been made on her clemency. She was told no decision has been made on clemency," the Free Nazanin campaign tweeted.

Amnesty International U.K.'s director, Kate Allen, said that "another period of this 'conditional liberty' is far better than outright jail, but we're worried that the Iranian authorities are still playing games with Nazanin and her family."

"Confined to her parents' house in Tehran, Nazanin is still a prisoner of conscience," Allen said in a statement.

A project manager with the Thomson Reuters Foundation, Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested in April 2016 at a Tehran airport as she headed back to Britain with her daughter following a family visit.

She was sentenced to prison in September 2016 following what Amnesty International called a "deeply unfair trial."

Britain has demanded her release and that of other dual nationals imprisoned in Iran. Tehran does not recognize dual citizenship.

Iran has temporarily released tens of thousands of inmates, including political prisoners, in recent months in response to the coronavirus epidemic.

With reporting by Reuters

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.


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