Citizen journalists, writers, activists and artists are routinely arrested and jailed in Iran for the simple crime of speaking out. Although some of the more dramatic stories occasionally hit the headlines, we rarely hear about these people's detentions or see their names published in English. IranWire's sister project Journalism is Not a Crime aims to change that, highlighting their stories and work, until the day when none of us know the names of journalists behind bars in Iran — because they have all been set free.
On January 26, 2020, agents of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) raided the home of Yasaman Khaleghian, a freelance journalist, and seized personal belongings including her media credentials. The news was first reported on Twitter by the journalist Fatemeh Jamalipour, but no reasons were given for the raid.
Khaleghian worked for the Iranian Labour News Agency (ILNA) until September 2019, when the agency's chief executive fired her for publishing controversial reports and failing to comply with the agency’s political position.
She had reported on the rape of a girl in Khomeini City, and on a fire at a coffee shop fire in Ahvaz.
Khaleghian later wrote about the work that led to her dismissal on Instagram: “The pressures and the psychological abuse I experienced at ILNA started right after my piece about a fire in a café in Ahvaz was published, which I am very proud of reporting. After that, my report about the rape of an Afghan girl in Khomeini City increased these pressures. The next issue, and of course the main issue, was my story about the distribution of aid by a benevolent company on the outskirts of Tehran.”
Khalegian said that instead of reporting the truth, she was asked by ILNA news officials to report on topics that served its supporter’s political agendas.
“I was surprised to hear from the Jihad al-Kafil group, which, according to the news agency, was allegedly affiliated with a military base and also had a special relationship with them [ILNA], a group that once entered the neighborhood where Afghans lived, and refused to distribute aid and assistance simply because they were refugees.”
According to Khaleghian, she was fired after refusing to write a report about the Jihad al-Kafil group, but with the help of a coworker, she was allowed back to work. However, after six months, when her contract was due for renewal, she was not granted a new contract.
Khaleghian had also published a video about female suicide in the city of Dishmuk, in the province of Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad. This video report was published on December 13, 2019.
Before this, Ahad Jamali, political security deputy of the province of Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad, had warned newspapers against exaggerating and tarnishing the reputation of his province.
As reported by Fars, on November 5, 2019, Jamali had announced that news agencies that do not follow regulations would face legal actions. “Unfortunately, some consider a lack of value in society as a value. For a tribal community, suicide is not regarded as something to be proud of,” he said, adding that it did not warrant a “magnificent funeral for the deceased.”