Security Forces Raid Iran Newspaper, Beat, Pepper Spray, and Arrest Journalists
Shortly after an armed raid by security and police forces on Iran Newspaper’s editorial offices today, a journalist present at the scene provided an eyewitness account for the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. “Everyone is still covered in white fire extinguisher powder. All of us still have a headache. At around noon, we heard screams and shouts from the fourth floor. We work inside the editorial offices of Iran Newspaper on the third floor. Javanfekr’s office is on the fourth floor. Several IRNA Political Desk reporters work inside a room adjacent to his office. Apparently, reporters from the Political Desk saw several plainclothes forces inside Javanfekr’s office, holding him by his feet and hands, forcing him to lie on the floor. The guys started yelling “Allah-o-Akbar” and “Heydar, Heydar. We were in the editorial rooms downstairs. We entered the hallways and stairways [to fourth floor] to see what was happening,” the IRNA reporter said, on condition of anonymity.
Security forces attacked Iran Newspaper, one of IRNA’s major publications, to arrest Ali Akbar Javanfekr, the President’s press adviser and Managing Director of IRNA News Agency. Javanfekr was sentenced to one year in prison for publishing articles and photographs considered “against public morality” in “Khatoon,” a special insert in Iran Newspaper. He held a press conference about his sentence this morning. At the end of his press conference, he was approached by representatives from the Tehran Prosecutor’s Office who had come to arrest him, leading to the confrontation with the entire editorial staff. In a November 19 interview with Etemad Newspaper, Javanfekr sharply criticized Iran’s Prosecutor General, Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejehi, and former Iranian Foreign Minister, Manouchehr Mottaki.
The source expanded on the raid, saying, “The Political Desk reporters cut off the elevators [to the fourth floor], so that they couldn’t take Javanfekr with them. They locked Javanfekr’s office door and called the police. But the forces broke the door with their sticks and came out and all of a sudden every floor was filled with plainclothes and police forces. It was as if they were all waiting upfront to come in. They entered every floor, threw the computers to the ground and cursed. They beat everyone with sticks. Several of the guys directed the fire extinguishers at the plainclothes men so they could run away. They sprayed us with pepper spray. We were suffocating. Our guys set the newspapers on the desks on fire in order to neutralize the spray effects. Right now, we are all covered in a white powder from the fire extinguishers. Our eyes are red because of the pepper spray. They were beating guys with sticks and taking them away. I had never seen anything like this before.”
An hour after the incident Javanfekr told the Reuters that he had not been arrested. According to the source, however, at least 30 reporters and personnel from IRNA News Agency, Iran Newspaper, Iran Online, and Iran Economic were arrested and several were also injured. Mossayeb Naimi, Iran Newspaper’s Editor-in-Chief, was also arrested.
When asked whether any of the employees were seriously injured, the source said, “One of the reporters with the Community Desk, Maryam Samani, has a leg handicap. Security forces kept screaming at her to walk as they drove everyone downstairs using their sticks. Ms. Samani was standing on the side of a hallway, saying: ‘I can’t go down without an elevator.’ They then pushed her and pepper sprayed her face. She passed out. Then they picked her up and took her.”
The source added that the Iran Newspaper staff have returned to work, and that the Tehran Governor is now inside the newspaper offices to maintain order.