Iranhumanrights.org - Hamed Ataee, a news editor from northwestern Iran who has been sentenced to four months in prison for posting a rumor online, says he was actually convicted for posting a video of a member of Parliament (MP) disparaging the presence of women in politics.
Ataee has denied posting the video, which shows MP Nader Ghazipour, who was running for re-election at the time, proclaiming at his campaign headquarters that Parliament is "no place for donkeys or women, it is for men."
The editor-in-chief of the Urmia-based Aina News, Ataee was officially convicted for posting a rumor on the social networking site Telegram alleging that Urmia MP Ghazipour, who was running for re-election in Iran's February 2016 elections, was disqualified when he had in fact won.
"The video might be Mr. Ghazipour's real motive for suing me, but I had nothing to do with posting it. In any case, the clip was not brought up in trial and I've been sentenced for a Telegram post," said Ataee in an interview with the Borna News Agency on November 16, 2016. "As I and my lawyer have repeatedly explained, I had no intention of spreading false news [about Ghazipour]...When his re-election was approved, we published the news as a verified fact and shared it widely on Telegram."
One hundred and eighty-seven journalists from Ataee's home province of West Azerbaijan have signed a statement calling on Ghazipour to rescind his legal suit against their colleague. Some of them also gathered at Ghazipour's constituency office on November 17 to deliver the statement and convince him to pardon Ataee.
"As your loyal supporters, we, the journalists and media directors in West Azerbaijan, unanimously and urgently appeal to your Excellency to give your consent in reconsidering this verdict for a forgivable action," said the statement. "This will help bring peace and harmony, which are needed more than ever in our beautiful [Urmia]."
In response, Ghazipour said he would ask his lawyer to "postpone the prison order for the time being" and added that he would consider withdrawing his suit on November 24.
Ghazipour Assaults Journalist
Ghazipour has a history of trying to intimidate members of the press. On August 28, 2016, bystanders witnessed him punching reporter Ehsan Badaghi, who works for the official newspaper of the government of President Hassan Rouhani. The incident prompted 327 journalists to call on Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani to investigate the crime.
"Ghazipour became angry after the reporter simply asked him about the divisive impact of the Azeri faction in Parliament, and punched him in the face, twisted his arm, took his recorder and dragged him to Parliament's security office," said the journalists in their letter to Larijani. "Shockingly, the security office made the reporter promise not to make trouble and deleted all his recordings... Who knows what we should expect next from this MP who once said Parliament is not a place for donkeys and women, and has now also punched a reporter in the face."
Two days later Ghazipour dismissed the incident as a "joke" on August 30, adding that he was in a rush and had to run over the reporter "like a tractor."
"The reporter was being stubborn and asked a bad question," he said. "I wanted to quickly get to my meeting with my constituents and reacted jokingly, and it was unpleasant."
A few days after Ghazipour's embarrassing speech appeared online, Ataee was assaulted in public by unknown assailants in Urmia on March 3, 2016.
"Mr. Ataee was contacted by anonymous individuals who had asked to meet him at Urmia's Revolution Square," Mostafa Zadegan, one of Ataee's friends, told the Tabnak news site on March 7, 2016. "After they met, they had an argument over the elections and he was severely beaten in front of his wife and children."
Zadegan added that the local prosecutor was investigating the incident, which was recorded by a security camera outside a nearby bank. However, nine months later no action has been taken to find and punish the alleged attackers.