TEHRAN: The head of Iran’s reformist newspaper Shargh was freed Sunday, a day after being arrested over a report on “prostitution” in a northeastern city that angered residents, Iranian media said.
Mehdi Rahmanian, the director of the newspaper, was released in the afternoon after paying bail of 500 million rials (RM47,000), the ILNA news agency reported.
The courts had summoned him “after a complaint by a group of residents of the Shahid Rajai neighbourhood of Mashhad,” the semi-official ISNA news agency reported, quoting the city’s deputy prosecutor Hassan Heydari.
“The newspaper had described some of the district’s women as prostitutes.”
Mashhad’s Khorassan newspaper said Rahmanian had been detained after initially failing to pay the bail.
Shargh on April 8 published a report on the murder of a six-year-old Afghan girl in the impoverished Shahid Rajai district of Mashhad, the second-largest city in Iran.
The article quoted an official from an association for children and poor people who said the district was home to several brothels and that drugs were sold there.
Khorassan said the article had provoked an angry protest by residents in front of the local mosque three days later.
Heydari said the prosecution had asked Rahmanian to “take action” against the journalist who wrote the article and “repair” the damage caused but measures were not taken.
Like other reformist newspapers, Shargh returned to the newsstands in late 2012 after being banned for several years.
It is one of the main reformist newspapers and a key supporter of President Hassan Rouhani, a moderate conservative elected to a second term in 2017.
Since taking office, Rouhani has been the target of intense criticism by ultra-conservatives, who dominate the judiciary and the security services.