Iran: Satirical writer Kioomars Marzban is sentenced to 23 years in jail
29 Aug 2019
Photo of Kioomars Marzban
Kioomars Marzban (Photo: RFE / RL / Twitter)

On 24 August 2019 Kioomars Marzban, a 27-year-old satirical writer from Iran, was sentenced to 23 years and 3 months in prison. He was found guilty on five separate charges, given a two-year travel ban, and a two-year ban on publishing or using social media.

Marzban left Iran in 2009 and had been living in Malaysia for nearly a decade, from where he wrote for Iranian diaspora programmes, including Radio Farda and the London-based media network Manoto. He returned to Iran to spend time with his sick grandmother in early 2018. On his return, he began leading creative writing workshops and had referred to some of his work abroad.

In early September 2018, authorities arrested Marzban on charges relating to his satirical writing. They raided his house and confiscated his laptop, mobile phone, and writing materials. He was only permitted to appoint a lawyer several months after being detained.

Following his arrest, a website affiliated with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) falsely claimed that Marzban had travelled to the United States in order to set up an anti-Iranian media outlet. The website said that the outlet would have been “aimed at inflaming the people and creating social divisions”. Marzban is understood to have only ever travelled to Georgia (in the Caucasus) during his time in Malaysia. 

The IRGC also accused Marzban of cooperating with the human rights organisation Freedom House, which according to them is “a project of American intelligence to push the issue of human rights internationally through media organisations”. 

Marzban was sentenced to 11 years for “communicating with America’s hostile government”, 7 years and 6 months for “insulting the sacred”, 3 years for “insulting the [supreme] leader”, 1 year and 6 months for “propaganda against the state”, and 9 months for “insulting officials”.

Condemning the sentencing of Kioomars Marzban, Jodie Ginsberg, Chief Executive of Index on Censorship, said “Kioomars has been given a sentence that would put him in jail for almost as long as he has been alive, meaning he would not be freed until 50. And all because he poked fun at power through writing. We urge satirists worldwide to condemn his jailing and for states who claim to support freedom of expression to demand his immediate release ”.

Disease control?

Mapping attacks on media freedom during the coronavirus crisis

Project Exile: Turkish journalist still fearful in Germany

Turkish journalist Zübeyde Sari began her career in 2009. By 2018, following President Erdogan’s crack down on the media, she was forced to flee.

Index on Censorship, Reporters Without Borders UK and Transparency International UK urge Azerbaijan to lift journalist’s travel ban

Azerbaijan authorities should lift a travel ban against award-winning investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova, UK-based rights groups urged on 15 January.

Urgent reforms needed to protect journalists from vexatious legal threats: Index on Censorship

The UK should make it harder for powerful individuals and companies to bring libel actions or use other vexatious legal threats designed to stifle investigative journalism, Index on Censorship said on Friday.

Jessica Ní Mhainín

Comments are closed.

Index logo white

Join us to protect and promote freedom of speech in the UK and across the world.
Since 1972, Index on Censorship has been leading the campaign for free expression.
Our award-winning magazine originally provided the platform for the untold stories of dissidents and resistance from behind the Iron Curtain and is now a home for some of the greatest campaigning writers of our age.
Journalistic freedom, artistic expression, the right to protest, the right to speak your mind, wherever you live.  These are the founding principles of Index on Censorship.
So join us, by subscribing to our newsletter or making a donation, to use your voice to ensure that everyone else can be heard too.
Go to the Index on Censorship home page