The journalist Mohammad Mosaed was arrested on Friday, November 22, by agents from Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence. The agents reportedly told Mosaed’s colleagues that he was being arrested because of tweets he had posted online during Iran’s internet shutdown last week. There has been no news of Mosaed since his arrest and calls to his phone have gone unanswered.
Also, on the morning of Thursday, November 21, security agents raided the home of a friend of the former political prisoner Yashar Darolshafa, where he had been staying, and took him to an unknown location. Darolshafa was first arrested in the aftermath of the disputed 2009 presidential election and was jailed for more than four years before securing an early release from prison.
After nationwide protests erupted a week ago against the government’s tripling of fuel prices in Iran, the government banned journalists from reporting on the protests. Internet access was also shut down to prevent videos and other reports spreading to social media.
Reports from across Iran indicate that internet access is slowly returning in a few provinces.
During the internet shutdown, Mosaed was able to send a tweet on November 19: “Knock, Knock! Hello Free World! I used 42 different proxies to write this! Millions of Iranians don’t have internet. Can you hear us?”
On Twitter, Mosaed has more than 38,000 followers and, as of this report, his tweet was retweeted over 3,100 times.
Earlier, on Saturday, November 16, the day after fuel prices were increased, he tweeted a picture of the front pages of 25 Iranian newspapers and criticized them for their silence after the sudden fuel price hike and for ignoring popular protests. He accused the papers of caring more about their own subsidies and about revenue from government-bought advertising.
“In the absence of the internet, metropolitan areas have turned into thousands of small villages that have been packed together,” he tweeted. “When means of communication are cut off, your horizon is reduced to a few meters. It makes no difference whether you are a few kilometers away or a few thousand kilometers away. We should congratulate,” he added sarcastically, “that sycophantic hyena, the minister [of communication], who has control over the internet.”
After Mosaed was arrested, Twitter suspended the account to protect him and his colleagues.
Mosaed, whose work focuses on economic issues, and who won the Aminozarb Prize in 2018 for his work, had been previously forced to resign from his position at the reformist newspaper Shargh. His resignation came this past summer after his investigative reports on allegedly corrupt practices by Mohammad Shariatmadari, the Minister for Cooperatives, Labor and Social Welfare, were published.
Some of Mosaed’s colleagues say he resigned to protect the jobs of his colleagues and to prevent the suspension of the paper. On July 3, 2019, under the title “Mohammad Shariatmadari Swallows Journalists”, the newspaper Hamdeli wrote [Persian link] that Mosaed was forced to resign under pressure from associates of President Hasan Rouhani’s minister of labor and that he was a victim of the “revelations” about Shariatmadari.
After resigning from Shargh, Mosaed tweeted that was looking for work outside journalism. But he has always used his Twitter platform to express views on political and social conditions in Iran, even when many other journalists have remained silent for fear of arrest or of losing their jobs.
In the fall of 2018, after a number of people were sentenced en masse to death by a special anti-corruption court, Mosaed again took to Twitter to protest the sentences. Again in 2018, and later in 2019, he wrote several analytical and critical pieces about protests by workers at the Haft-Tappeh Sugar Factory that were widely read. And in January 2018 he also reported on an assassination attempt against the Haft-Tapeh labor representative Esmail Bakhshi [Persian link], by unknown assailants.
Reactions to Mosaed’s Arrest
News of Mosaed’s arrest came on a day when internet connections were partially restored in some areas of Iran – giving his colleagues and civil rights activists a chance to express their shock and anger.
“Mohammad Mosaed is an honorable journalist who, in all these years, has stayed away from self-interest and has tried to be the real voice of the people,” tweeted journalist Sam Zamanzadeh. “I never saw him stand on the wrong side of an issue to benefit from it.”
“Mohammad Mosaed was arrested!” the Iranian movie actress Mahnaz Afshar said on Twitter. “He was neither a troublemaker nor a traitor. He was an honorable citizen who, like many of us, protested and used his platform to give voice to the oppressed and their rights. Are we supposed to think otherwise of him?”
“If your internet has just been reconnected, know this: Mohammad Mosaed sent one tweet, ‘Knock, Knock, …’ and was thrown in jail,” tweeted Alireza Roashan, administrator of the Gonabadi Dervishes’ website Majzooban Noor. “If you tell this to anybody, he would frown and ask ‘How can this happen?’ But it did happen.”
“It is quite an achievement,” tweeted Shahram Rafizadeh, an Iranian journalist living in Canada. “They managed to arrest a journalist for tweeting about the shutdown of the internet!”
Shutting Down the Internet to Get Away with Murder, November 19, 2019
Iran Pulls a “North Korea” by Cutting off Internet in Response to Protests, November 17, 2019
Iran Bans Journalists From Reporting on Protests, November 17, 2019