Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei, the new head of the judiciary in Iran, has been linked to the murder of journalist Pirouz Davani in 1998. This has prompted Reporters Without Borders to again call for an investigation into the persecution of journalists in Iran.
In an article entitled New head of Iran’s judicial system has journalists’ blood on his hands, RSF called on the United Nations Human Rights Council to establish an international commission of enquiry regarding Mohseni Ejehi’s human rights violations against journalists. The group mounted the appeal on July 13, the last day of the 47th session United Nations Human Rights Council, which got underway on June 21.
The Supreme Leader appointed Mohseni Ejei to run the judiciary in early July, following the election of the former chief justice, hardliner Ebrahim Raisi, to the presidency on June 18. Mohseni Ejei will iniitally serve a five-year term.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) points to statements made by journalist Akbar Ganji in court in December 2000 outlining that Mohseni Ejei, who was at the time the prosecutor of the Special Clerical Court, was responsible for the murder of Pirouz Davani, editor and owner of Pirouz magazine.
That Mohseni Ejei has been directly implicated in the death of a journalist will come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the former intelligence minister’s record on violating press freedom. RSF highlights Mohseni-Ejei’s connection with serial murders of journalists, intellectuals and political opponents in the 1990s. Among those killed were prominent figures Dariush Forouhar and Parvaneh Eskandari, Majid Sharif, a member of the editorial board of Iran-e Farda magazine, and writer Mohammad Mokhtari and journalist Mohammad Jafar Pouyandeh, both of whom had been singled out and specifically targeted by the Ministry of Intelligence in 1998.
RSF also points to Mohseni Ejei’s role in the crackdown on the Green Movement, the nationwide protests that erupted in 2009 following the disputed presidential election of that year. Mohseni Ejei, who was both Minister of Intelligence and general prosecutor at that time, was responsible for the detention of hundreds of journalists, and for the heavy sentences brought against them, as well as the continued house arrest of presidential candidates Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi and Mousavi’s wife, political activist Zahra Rahnavard. All three have been confined to their homes since March 2011. Mousavi had served as prime minister in the 1980s, and Karroubi is a former parliamentary speaker. Mousavi’s newspaper Kaleme Sabz is currently banned in Iran, as is Karroubi’s paper Etemad-e Melli.
In one infamous incident in 2004, Mohseni Ejei was so angered during a Press Supervisory Board meeting to discuss forced closures and suppression of media outlets that he threw a sugar bowl at prominent journalist Isa Saharkhiz before attacking him and biting him.
Mohseni Ejei has also targeted Telegram, ordering the arrests of dozens of reporters and other individuals working for news channels on the app.
RSF has repeatedly labeled Iran one of the most repressive countries in the world. The organization’s 2021 World Press Freedom Index, which evaluates the situation in 180 countries, ranks Iran at 174, with North Korea (179th) and Eritrea (180th) listed as the worst environments in the world for press freedom.