Iran executes journalist Ruhollah Zam over his online work

Iran executes journalist Ruhollah Zam over his online work

December 12, 2020 / 9:41 AM
/ AP

Iran on Saturday executed a once-exiled journalist over his online work that helped inspire nationwide economic protests in 2017, authorities said, just months after he returned to Tehran under mysterious circumstances. Though he was based in Paris, Zam somehow returned to Iran and found himself detained by intelligence officials. First published on December 12, 2020 / 9:41 AM Many believe that hard-line opponents of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani instigated the first demonstrations in the conservative city of Mashhad in northeastern Iran, trying to direct public anger at the president. Zam, who has said he fled Iran after being falsely accused of working with foreign intelligence services, denied inciting violence on Telegram at the time. Zam is the son of Shiite cleric Mohammad Ali Zam, a reformist who once served in a government policy position in the early 1980s. He said following the arrest that he could meet his father after nine years and his mother and sister after some six years. Zam’s website AmadNews and a channel he created on the popular messaging app Telegram had spread the timings of the protests and embarrassing information about officials that directly challenged Iran’s Shiite theocracy. Soon, cries directly challenging Rouhani and even Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei could be heard in online videos shared by Zam. Zam’s channel also shared times and organizational details for the protests. But as protests spread from town to town, the backlash turned against the entire ruling class. The 2017 protests reportedly saw some 5,000 people detained and 25 killed. Those demonstrations, which began at the end of 2017, represented the biggest challenge to Iran’s rulers since the 2009 Green Movement protests and set the stage for similar mass unrest in November of last year. 

In this June 2, 2020 photo, journalist Ruhollah Zam speaks during his trial at the Revolutionary Court, in Tehran, Iran. 

Ali Shirband/Mizan News Agency via AP

The initial spark for the 2017 protests was a sudden jump in food prices. The channel later continued under a different name. The cleric wrote a letter published by Iranian media in July 2017 in which he said he wouldn’t support his son over AmadNews’ reporting and messages on its Telegram channel. Trending News

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Telegram shut down the channel over Iranian government complaints it spread information about how to make gasoline bombs. He’s one of several opposition figures in exile who have been returned to Iran over the last year. The details of his arrest still remain unclear. Iranian state television and the state-run IRNA news agency said that Ruhollah Zam, 47, was hanged early Saturday morning. During an interview on July, Zam said he has lost some 30 kilograms (66 pounds) since his arrest in October 2019. France previously has criticized his death sentence as “a serious blow to freedom of expression and press freedom in Iran.”

Reporters Without Borders, a group that campaigns for press freedoms, said Zam’s hanging was a “new crime of Iranian justice.” A series of a televised confessions aired earlier this year over his work.