A death penalty for journalism in Iran

Iran’s hardline judiciary is getting very good at silencing its critics.

Over the last decade, but especially following the 2009 presidential election when the authorities tightened restrictions on free speech and access to information, Iran has detained dozens of journalists and activists.

At the time of the 2009 presidential election, the Committee to Protect Journalists were reporting only nine Iranian journalists imprisoned. Less than a month later, this figure had climbed to 39, and it has consistently remained near to that number. That increase led to Reporters Without Borders calling Iran among the five biggest prisons in the world for journalists.

Journalist and lawyer Arzhang Davoodi is one of those critics, imprisoned for his work..

Arzhang Davoodi was arrested and has been held since 2003 for daring to criticise the Iranian authorities. He also contributed to a TV documentary, ‘Forbidden Iran’, in which he spoke about human rights violations and the cruel situation of political prisoners in the country - a film widely broadcast in Europe and America. One of his audio recordings in which he called for “freedom and democracy” also became very popular, further angering the hardliners in the authorities.

After 11 years spent in different prisons, he is now awaiting death penalty in very poor conditions. He has had a collection of charges: ‘spreading propaganda against the system’, ‘establishing and directing an organisation opposed to the government’, ‘insulting the Supreme Leader’. He has also been charged of ‘enmity against God’, a charge critics of the system usually get, and often carries a death sentence.

But why is he facing that? The sentence came for his peaceful political activism and alleged membership and support of the banned group People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI). PMOI is a militant Iranian opposition group and also recognized as a terrorist organization by some Western countries. It participated in the 1979 Revolution and now advocates the overthrow of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Not surprisingly, the death sentence was imposed despite a lack of evidence and after an unfair trial. He had been given less than an hour to present his defence before a Revolutionary Court.

Journalism and peaceful criticism of your government should not lead to the noose. Arzhang Davoodi is a prisoner of conscience with no links to the PMOI and with the courage to speak out about the unlawful proceedings of the Iranian authorities and the harsh situation of arrested fellow activists and political prisoners.

Please join me and urge the Iranian authorities to immediately overturn the death sentence of Arzhang Davoodi and to release him promptly and unconditionally.

If you’re unsure what to write, you can download a short suggested letter at the bottom of the blog - but please adapt this if you wish as the more personal each letter is, the greater the pressure.

Send your letter to:

Ayatollah Sayed 'Ali Kamenei
The Office of the Supreme Leader
Islamic Republic Street - End of Shahid
Kashvar Doust Street
Islamic Republic of Iran

Or email it to info@dadiran.ir and info_leader@leader.ir

Krisztina Saroy is our Country Coordinator for Iran. Find more about our Country Coordinators

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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