LONDON: The Iranian authorities arrested freelance journalist Najaf Mehdipour last week in his home in the eastern city of Darreh Shahr, in Ilam province, without disclosing the reasons for his arrest.
Mehdipour, an Iranian national known as Kaveh, was transferred to a local prison the next day where he is currently being held. Mehdipour previously worked as the editor-in-chief of the Bakhter Zamin magazine, which tackled politics, social and cultural and human rights issues prior to its suspension in 2018 for publishing articles critical of Iran’s leaders and alleged human rights abuses.
Since then, Mehdipour has worked as a freelance journalist contributing to various Persian-language outlets. His detention took place ahead of the presidential elections set to take place on June 18.
According to reports by the Human Rights Activists News agency, this is not the first time that Iranian authorities have detained Mehdipour. In July 2019, he was arrested and detained for seven months on charges of “insulting the supreme leader” and “spreading propaganda against the regime.”
The imprisonment of journalists in Iran appears to be a strategy employed by the regime, especially prior to elections, to crack down on the press and prohibit them from criticizing candidates or political figures.
According to the 2021 World Press Freedom Index, Iran ranked 174 out of 180 countries in freedom of the press. At least 860 journalists and citizen-journalists have been prosecuted, arrested, imprisoned and in some cases executed since the 1979 revolution.