How Can They Claim There are No Journalists Imprisoned?

Kaveh Ghoreishi
Kaveh Ghoreishi

» A News Website in Mahabad is Shut and its Manager Arrested

Security forces in Mahabad broke raided the offices of Ravangah news website and arrested its manager, Hossein Sheikh Aghai who is also the caricaturist for the newspaper. A reporter told Rooz Online that the website had a reformist attitude adding that the detention of the manager rather than the initial customary warning indicated an “excluding” and violent response.

As reported by Mokrian news website, Sheikh Aghai was arrested on Wednesday by security forces who showed up at his work place and transferred him to an unknown destination. According to Mokrian, the arrest warrant was issued by Ali Mohri, the prosecutor at branch One of the General and Revolutionary Court of Mahabad after Aghai had been detained.  Ravangah news website was launched this January (Persian month of Dey 1393) with the goal of providing news about Kurdish settled provinces of West Azerbaijan in two languages, Farsi and Kurdish.

Kamal Hossein, a reporter in the Kurdish town of Mahabad told Rooz Online, “Ravangah covered political, social and cultural news and reports for the southern Kurdish areas of West Azerbaijan (Mokrian) and had a more reformist approach. It was in the process of getting its operation license. The site had been registered and one of its officers said that they expected the permit later this week.” According to this reporter, “Following the arrest of the chief editor and another member of the editorial board, the security agency that was involved unlawfully gained access to the username and password of the website and changed it, thus denying its legitimate and legal owners access to their website.”

Hossein also pointed to an earlier arrest of two Kurdish journalists in Mahabad, both of whom were given heavy prison sentences. “This kind of behavior, arrest and heavy sentences are not justified for media managers and civil activists. They are against freedom of press, expression and civil rights. How can government officials claim there are no journalists in Iranian prisons?”

The absence of reports in Iranian prisons is a reference to what officials in the Islamic republic regularly proclaim. The latest such claims came from Iran’s foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif who told CNN that said he did not believe any journalists or media activists were imprisoned” in Iran.

Family members of the detained editor made repeated efforts to learn of the whereabouts of their detainee, only to be told he may be in Orumieh. Sheikh Aghai had been arrested once before in connection with the protests following the 2009 rigged presidential elections.

These arrests come after the current administration had talked of the possibility of launching a Kurdish service in the official Iranian news agency. In addition to the many journalists and media activists who are in prisons in Tehran, a number of Kurdish reporters such as Mohammad Sadigh Kaboodvand, Adnan Hassanpour, and, Khosro and Masoud Kordpoor are also in these prisons.