A freelance reporter facing a five-year prison sentence in Iran has been recognized in the Committee to Protect Journalists’ annual International Press Freedom Awards.
Mohammad Mosaed was sentenced to four years and nine months in prison and a two-year ban on journalism by Branch 26 of Tehran’s Islamic Revolutionary Court on August 25, 2020.
The veteran economic reporter has carried out numerous investigations into government corruption, embezzlement, sanctions and labor protests in Iran. He has worked for several reformist magazines and newspapers in the past, including Shargh Daily, and now publishes his stories on social media platforms including Twitter and Telegram.
Mosaed was first detained by the Iranian authorities on November 22, 2019 after posting on Twitter in the middle of a government-implemented shutdown of the internet that aimed to stop people taking part in November 2019 protests. He was held in Evin Prison for 16 days before being released on bail. Then on February 22, 2020, he was re-arrested over a series of other tweets in which he criticized the government’s response to Covid-19 and exposed candidates in the February parliamentary elections as ex-members of the Revolutionary Guards.
For the past three months Mosaed has been kept in limbo awaiting a summons from the Iranian judiciary to begin serving his sentence. News of his case made headlines after the CPJ, a US-based NGO, announced he was among the winners of its 2020 International Press Freedom awards. The four winners were honored at a digital ceremony on Thursday, November 19.
Sherif Mansour, the CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa coordinator, told IranWire that Mosaed’s tenacity in continuing to report via digital platforms was one of the factors that made him exemplary. “Mohammad Mosaed is one of a new generation of journalists who are savvy enough to get around online censorship,” he said. “In one of the most censored countries in the world, he continues to find ways to operate using online tools. That shows courage.”
According to the CPJ’s annual surveys the Islamic Republic consistently ranks among the most prolific jailers of journalists every year. Mansour told IranWire that the CPJ is aware of at least another 12 reporters in custody in Iran on similar charges to Mosaed, and 12 more who have been convicted and are awaiting a summons.
This year, Mansour says, selecting candidates from the Middle East for the International Press Freedom Award was “a challenging call, because of how many courageous journalists there are who continue to push back and take risks. Governments have used the pandemic to expand censorship and there have been protests and uprisings across the region. Mohammad Mosaed was one of the first people to talk about Covid-19 infections in Iran, and faced a backlash because of it.
“We hope the Iranian government sees what kind of a reception we and other international human rights groups have given him.”