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Leaked Files Shed Light On Iran's Brutal, Decades-Long Crackdown On Journalists


RSF activists take part in a protest in Paris against Iran's treatment of journalists. (file photo)

Iranian authorities arrested, imprisoned, or executed at least 860 journalists in the three decades between the 1979 revolution and 2009, the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said on February 7, citing leaked Iranian justice department documents.

At a February 7 news conference in Paris attended by Iranian human rights lawyer Shirin Ebadi, the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, RSF said whistle-blowers had passed on 1.7 million records detailing judicial proceedings against Iranian citizens -- including minorities, opposition members, journalists, and individuals accused of nonpolitical crimes.

RSF Secretary-General Christophe Deloire said his media-rights group had spent months cross-checking the records against its own documentation and from other rights groups.

He said the evidence shows that hundreds of journalists have been targeted by Iran's clerical establishment.

"The file is a register of all the arrests, imprisonments, and executions carried out by the Iranian authorities in the Tehran area over three decades," RSF said.

RSF released a report on its findings on February 7 amid celebrations in Iran marking the 40th anniversary of the revolution that ended the monarchy and led to the creation of an Islamic republic.

"After months of detailed research work on the file's entries, RSF is in a position to say that at least 860 journalists and citizen-journalists were arrested, imprisoned, and in some cases executed by the Iranian regime between 1979 and 2009, the period on which RSF focused its research."

Among those arrested were 218 women, the report said.

RSF said journalists have been detained on "spurious charges" such as “collaborating with an enemy foreign state,” “activity against domestic security,” “antigovernment propaganda,” and “spying.”

Charges of “insulting what is sacred and Islam” and “insulting the supreme leader” have also been used to imprison journalists.

The watchdog said most of the journalists were denied basic rights, including access to a lawyer and contact with their families. They were also subjected to mistreatment and torture, RSF said.

Deloire said his organization would refer the file to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in the hope further steps could be taken to hold Iran accountable.

"The very existence of this file and its millions of entries show not only the scale of the Iranian regime's mendacity...but the relentless machinations it used for 40 years to persecute men and women for their opinions or their reporting," he said.

In its report, RSF said it had identified at least four journalists who were executed, including Simon Farzami, a Swiss-Iranian of Jewish origin who was bureau chief of the French news agency Agence France-Presse when he was arrested in 1980.

RSF said the files also showed that 61,900 political prisoners had been held since the 1980s. At least 520 of them were aged between 15 and 18 at the time of their arrest, the rights group said.

It said the files added to evidence of a prison massacre in 1988 in which several thousand political prisoners were executed following a fatwa by Iran's revolutionary leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

With reporting by Reuters
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