Though we are all too familiar with the repression reporters increasingly face in Iran, we were extremely troubled this week to hear that Hossein Derakhshan, an influential Iranian blogger, has been sentenced to nineteen and a half years in prison for his work. Derakhshan’s contributions to press freedom in Iran are impressive — he not only wrote openly and prolifically about dissent both within the country and while in exile; he also encouraged Iranians to speak out by posting instructions in Persian on how to create websites and self-publish reporting online. Known as the “Blogfather” by some, Derkhshan was convicted under the following statutes, according to Amnesty International: “cooperating with hostile states”, “propaganda against the system”, “propaganda in favour of counter-revolutionary groups”, “insults to the holy sanctities”, and “the set-up and management of vulgar and obscene websites”.
In addition to jail time, Derkhshan was banned from any political or journalistic activities for five years; he also received a one-year travel ban and a 30,750 Euro fine. Earlier this week, prosecutors had asked the court to grant the death penalty.
Since the disputed Iranian elections last year, an alarming increase in state-directed attacks on press has forced many journalists into hiding. The entire staff (around twenty-five people in total) of opposition candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi’s newspaper, Kalemeh Sabz, was arrested immediately following the elections. And since then the Committee to Protect Journalists has reported that twenty-nine Iranian editors, reporters, and photographers fled the country in the aftermath of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s re-election — making Iran the nation with the highest tally of reporters fleeing state-sponsored violence in the world.