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More Iranian Journalists Arbitrarily Arrested, Facing 'Inhuman' Treatment, Says Watchdog

Journalist and human rights activist Narges Mohammadi was beaten by Iranian prison officials, according to RSF, which has condemned the "arbitrary" arrests of reporters in the country. (file photo)

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has condemned the "arbitrary” arrests of four journalists in Iran last month, which it said brought the number of reporters held since the start of a wave of anti-government protests in November to 12.

In a statement on January 7, the Paris-based media freedom watchdog also denounced the "inhuman and degrading" treatment of two prominent women journalists in Tehran's Evin prison in the past two weeks.

RSF said the detention and ill-treatment of the journalists were just examples of "the many measures taken by the Iranian authorities to step up their harassment of journalists" since a wave of anti-government protests erupted in mid-November following a gas price hike.

The group said Jelveh Javaheri, Kaveh Mzadari, Forough Sameinia, and Ahmad Zahedi Langroudi were among people arrested on December 26 during an event held in the northern city of Sowme'eh Sara to pay tribute to a demonstrator killed during a protest in November.

All those arrested have been released from custody except the four journalists, for whom payment of 100 million tomans ($30,000) in bail was demanded, according to RSF.

It added that the four are being held in Lakan prison near Rasht, Gilan Province’s largest city, without their lawyers or families knowing why.

Javaheri, Mzadari, and Sameinia work for online media, while Langroudi edits the provincial monthly GhilanOuja.

Meanwhile, journalist and human rights activist Narges Mohammadi was beaten by prison officials in Evin prison on December 25 as she responded to a summons to meet with her lawyer in the prison director's office, RSF said.

Instead of her lawyer, it said, Mohammadi found the prison director and an Intelligence Ministry representative, who told her she was going to be transferred to Zanjan prison, 300 kilometers from the capital.

When Mohammadi objected, she was beaten repeatedly and then bundled into an ambulance that took her to Zanjan, according to the media watchdog.

It said that both the Evin prison administration and the Justice Ministry denied that the attack against the journalist had taken place, although a forensic doctor’s report confirms that she sustained "bruising and other signs of physical trauma."

The 47-year-old Mohammadi, who was also the spokesperson for the Center for Human Rights Defenders in Iran, is serving a 10-year prison sentence after being found guilty of anti-government propaganda and membership of a banned group opposed to the death penalty, among other charges.

RSF said the "long list" of journalists subjected to inhuman treatment and humiliation in Iran's prisons also includes Hengameh Shahidi, who is serving 12 years and nine months in prison for "insulting the judicial system and its representatives."

Shahidi, who is also a women’s rights activist and former adviser to reformist politician Mehdi Karrubi, has been denied medical treatment for a heart condition, it said.

Her family and lawyer say she is in very poor health.

Reza Moini, the head of RSF’s Iran/Afghanistan desk, urged the UN special rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iran, Javaid Rehman, to "intervene as a matter of urgency."

"The inhuman and degrading treatment of prisoners of conscience, including journalists and citizen-journalists, constitutes a flagrant violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a party," Moini said.

Iran is ranked 179th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2019 World Press Freedom Index.

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