Iranian Journalist Gets 50 Lashes and 2 Years in Prison for 'Propaganda'
Originally posted at: http://mashable.com/2014/07/09/iranian-journalist-50-lashes-2-years-in-prison/
Iran is sending yet another journalist to prison. Marzieh Rasouli, an arts and culture local journalist and blogger, was taken into custody on Tuesday to start serving her sentence of 2 years in prison and 50 lashes for "propaganda" against the state and "disruption of public order."
Rasouli was arrested in 2012, also on the accusation of working with BBC Persian (a usual target of the Iranian government), and spent almost six weeks in solitary confinement. She was later released on bail and her sentence didn't come until February 2014, but at that point it was unclear whether she'd have to actually go to jail, as she was in the process of appealing the decision.
Rasouli announced on Twitter — a service that it's blocked inside Iran — that she had been called in on Monday to go to prison.
None of her friends and family, who launched a website in support of her cause in 2012, believed this was going to happen, according to a close friend of Rasouli, who spoke to Mashable on condition of remaining anonymous for her and Rasouli's safety.
"She didn't even have time to say goodbye to her family," the friend said. "She couldn't say goodbye to her mom and dad. She was shocked."
Another person who was arrested with her in 2012, Parastoo Dokouhaki, only received a sentence of probation with no jail time.
Negar Mortazavi, an Iranian freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C., toldMashable that Rasouli's imprisonment has to be seen as yet another attempt by the country's hardliners, loyal to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to exert their authority against the more moderate government of President Hassan Rouhani — as a way of "stepping up" the "crackdown on reformists or progressives."
Hadi Ghaemi, the executive director of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, described it her arrest as well as other recent ones as "a concerted assault on freedom of expression, particularly targeting female journalists."
"These arrests are targeted at imposing a heightened atmosphere of fear and intimidation on the press, particularly as we reach a critical stage in the nuclear negotiations," he told Mashable. "The Iranian Judiciary appears to be nervous about independent voices and journalists commenting and reporting on the current state of domestic affairs."
Last week, the U.N. Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay asked Iran to include human rights issues in the negotiations between the country and world powers over Iran's nuclear program.
While her case is obviously not directly connected to the negotiations, it's "not a coincidence" that she was imprisoned now, Mortazavi said.
Rasouli wasn't a political writer, she mainly wrote about literature for newspapers that had official licenses in the country, as well as her own blog, Three Days Ago. She wasn't an obvious target, and even her alleged connections to BBC Persianshould be seen as a tenuous charge, according to Mortazavi.
A lot of Iranian journalists, including some who work abroad, know each other, and are part of a relatively small, close-knit community.
"You can't stop talking to your friend just because they work somewhere else," Mortazavi said.
Rasouli's arrest comes on the heels of a recent and long list of other arrests and convictions against journalists and bloggers. Last month, Iransentenced a group of tech bloggers to a combined 36 years in prison for their work with foreign media and "espionage." Also last month, Saba Azarpeyk, another reformist journalist, was imprisoned, according to Agence France Press.
As of last year, there were 35 journalists in prison in Iran, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.
It's unclear whether Rasouli will have to spend two full years in jail at this point, or whether she will really be lashed. The lashing sentence is more of a symbolic punishment, Mortazavi explained. But Gissou Nia, the executive director of the The Iran Human Rights Documentation Center (IHRDC), explained to Mashablethat normally the lashing punishment is given towards the end of one's imprisonment, so "unless something happens to the judgment, [the 50 lashes] will be given."
Other Iranian journalists reacted with disbelief.
"The cruel sentence of 50 lashes, plus two years in prison, is the most inhumane verdict that a reporter could ever receive," Omid Memarian, a freelance journalist and bloger, told Mashable. "Why lashing a reporter just for doing her job?