Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 13 November 2019

Iran says it arrested exiled journalist accused of stoking protests

Revolutionary Guard says Ruhollah Zam, who was living in Paris, was 'guided into the country

Students protest at the University of Tehran on December 30, 2017 during a wave of demonstration across Iran over economic conditions. AFP
Students protest at the University of Tehran on December 30, 2017 during a wave of demonstration across Iran over economic conditions. AFP

Iran's Revolutionary Guard says it has arrested an exiled journalist who helped fan the flames of nationwide economic protests that struck the country at the end of 2017.

A statement released by the Revolutionary Guard did not explain how authorities detained Ruhollah Zam, who ran a website called AmadNews that posted embarrassing videos and information about Iranian officials. He had been living and working in exile in Paris. It said Zam was "guided into the country" before the arrest.

An announcement on state television called Zam a "special prey". It said his detention was a victory of the Guard's intelligence department over western services.

The report described Zam as the head of network of psychological warfare by Iran's enemies. The Revolutionary Guard alleged Zam was supported by the intelligence services of the US, France and Israel, something he has denied.

A channel he ran on Telegram spread messages about upcoming protests in 2017 and shared videos from the demonstrations, which occurred across some 75 cities and towns. While the protests ultimately stopped, Iran's economy has worsened after President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew America from Iran's nuclear deal and imposed crippling sanctions on its oil industry.

Telegram shut down the channel over Iranian government complaints it spread information about how to make petrol bombs. The channel later continued under a different name.

While Iranian authorities ban social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter and censor others, Telegram users can say nearly anything. In the last presidential election, the app played a big role in motivating turnout and spreading political screeds.

Zam, 46, once was detained during turmoil following the disputed 2009 presidential election that led to re-election of former hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The jpournalist is the son of Shiite cleric Mohammad Ali Zam, a reformist who once served in a government policy position in the early 1980s. The cleric wrote a letter published by Iranian media in July 2017 in which he said he would not support his son over AmadNews' reporting and messages on its Telegram channel.

"I found that you crossed the red line," the cleric wrote, referring to comments the channel circulated about Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. "Our red line is the supreme leader, but you passed the red line."

Updated: October 14, 2019 07:44 PM

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