Iran executed journalist Ruhollah Zam for inspiring the 2017 protest
Iran’s Journalist Ruhollah Zam who was convicted for “corruption on Earth” was executed on Saturday morning. Ruholla was accused of inspiring the 2017 protest in the country. He was convicted in June for “corruption on Earth”, a charge often used on spies or espionage or attempt to overthrow the Iranian theocratic government.
The order of execution was upheld by the Supreme court of Iran. The information of his execution was broadcasted on Iranian state television and the state-run IRNA news agency but there was no elaboration on the report.
Zam used to share blogs and news on his website and his telegram channel which has more than one million followers. He used to disclose embarrassing information about Iran’s officials and share the timing of the protest. The information disclosed by him directly challenged Iran’s Shia theocracy.
The 2017-18 protest in Iran started on 28 December 2017 on the sudden jump of prices. The protest started in Mashhad, Iran’s second-largest city by population. Initially, the protest was against rising prices and economic policies of the government but the span of the protest further increased and it challenged the theocracy in Iran and the longtime Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei. The protest sparked throughout the country. Many believe the opposition instigated the protest initially and later directed the public anger towards the president, Hassan Rouhani.
This was the second big challenge after the 2009 Green Movement protests or the 2009 presidential election protests. Cries against Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, and supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was heard in the videos shared on Zam’s channel and sites.
Around some 5,000 people were detained and 25 were killed in the 2017 protest.
The telegram channel of Ruhollah Zam played a crucial role in the protest. His telegram channel “Amad News” (AMAD standing for Agaahi, awareness, Mobaareze, combat & Democracy) was later shut down by telegram on the allegation of spreading information about the use of handmade explosives against the security forces by the government. Telegram shut down the channel as spreading such content was against the policy of the app but Ruhollah had denied these claims. Telegram CEO Pavel Durov received criticism for the action against the Ruhollah channel.
Iran’s government initially restricted the telegram app but later applied permanent restrictions on it in April 2018 and created similar other versions and clone of it namely Talagram or Telegram Golden and Hotgram with overhauled censorship and features.
Zam fled the country stating that he was falsely accused of working with foreign intelligence services. He denied any involvement in inciting violence through his telegram channel.
He fled to Paris and returned to the country under mysterious circumstances got captured by the country’s Revolutionary Guards Corps. Several opposition figures involved in the 2017 protest are in exile.
He appeared on a series of television confessions and interviews and apologise for his past activities. He also said that he has lost almost 30 kgs since his arrest.
Ruhollah Zam is the son of a reformist Shia cleric. His father served the government policy position in the early 1980s. His father has criticized his involvement and said that he does not support him in this.
France and the Human rights Organization has criticized the execution of Zam and called it “a serious blow to freedom of expression and press freedom in Iran.” Media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) also criticized it “RSF is outraged at this new crime of Iranian justice,” the organization tweeted, adding it had warned United Nations rights chief Michelle Bachelet in October that the death sentence was likely.