Saturday, November 22, 2014

Iran: "Blogfather" of Iran pardoned after spending six years in jail


21 November 2014
World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers

This statement was originally published on on 21 November 2014.

Hossein Derakhshan - known as the 'blogfather' of Iran - was pardoned this week by Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Derakhshan served six years of a seventeen-year prison sentence for "cooperation with hostile states, propagating against the regime, propagation in favor of anti-revolutionary groups, insulting sanctities, and implementation and management of obscene websites."

"We welcome the release from prison of Hossein Derakhshan and we are delighted that he is free, but he should never have been imprisoned in the first place," WAN-IFRA's Secretary General Larry Kilman said. "He was pardoned for the 'crime' of simply exercising the basic human right to freedom of expression. It is a sad fact that repressive governments withhold this basic right from the majority of the world's population."

"I was released after six years," Derakhshan posted on his Google Plus page on Thursday. "Thank your God. Very grateful to the Ayatollah Khamenei."

Derakhshan was first arrested on November 1 2008 by Iranian authorities on suspicion of espionage for the Israeli Government. He was sentenced to 19 and a half years in prison in September 2010, after he had already spent two years in the Evin prison outside of Tehran. In 2013, Iranian authorities reduced his sentence to 17 years.

Derakshan had been blogging since the early stages of the internet and saw the potential of the internet to bring about social and political reform in Iran. He was the founder of one of the first blogs written in Farsi, posting simple instructions on how to create websites in 2001. Derakhshan has written for a number of publications, including The Guardian, The Washington Post, Newsweek and the BBC World Service.

Iran has a history of restricting free speech and journalists' activities. Journalists are routinely imprisioned and publications are often censored or shut down. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Iran had 35 journalists behind bars in 2013, the most in the world.

Derakshan was featured in WAN-IFRA's #FreeThePress campaign earlier this year.