The two journalists, who have been detained without formal charges since August, include arrested Sasan Aghaei, 34, deputy editor of the reformist paper Etemad, and Yaghma Fashkhami, a journalist for the Didban Iran website.
Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, said: “Iran’s judiciary and intelligence agencies have a longstanding pattern of prosecuting journalists on dubious national security charges. The latest journalists to be arrested have not been accused of doing anything beyond exercising their right to free speech, and should be freed immediately…. Iran’s various intelligence agencies seem to agree on at least one thing: their repressive approach towards journalists and press freedom”
Both journalists have previously received harassment from the Regime based on their free speech activities.
Aghaei, who has been arrested four times since 2009, has been held in solitary confinement in the notorious Evin prison in Tehran. Human Rights Watch said that this sort of indefinite solitary confinement is inhumane and could amount to torture.
A source close to his family said that Iranian authorities are pressing him to admit to connections with the Amad News website, a media outlet which opposes the Regime.
Human Rights Watch said: “Iranian authorities frequently detain and prosecute journalists on vaguely defined national security charges while granting limited or no access to legal defence during the investigative phase of their detention. Iran’s criminal procedure law, which went into force in 2014, sought to expand legal access to detainees.
owever, article 48 of the approved amendments require people accused of certain offences, including political charges, to choose their counsel from a pool of lawyers approved by the head of Iran’s judiciary. The list is not available to the public, and attorneys and families of detainees charged with national security crimes frequently report that detainees have been denied access to a lawyer at the pretrial investigation stage.”
This is not even the first case of the Iranian Regime suppressing freedom of the press in 2017.
On August 31, Azam Eghtesad, the mother of reformist journalist Ehsan Mazandarani, who has been held in Evin prison since March, told the Center for Human Rights in Iran that her son’s health had greatly deteriorated.
Mazandarani had originally been released in February after serving a year in jail on bogus charges of “assembly and collusion against national security” and “propaganda against the state,” but then claimed it was a mistake to release him and sent him back to prison.
On August 29, journalists Hengameh Shahidi and Zeinab Karmianian, were released after five months in jail without charges.