Freelance journalist, administrator for Radio Lorestan Telegram channel
Date of Birth
Sina Ghalandari, born in 1985, is a freelance journalist who reports on local issues and and the administrator for Radio Lorestan, a Telegram channel. He is based in Koohdasht, his birthplace and a city in the western province of Lorestan. Radio Lorestan operates with a license from Iran’s Culture and Islamic Guidance Ministry and has more than 6,000 followers.
Ghalandari’s critical eye toward events and politics in his province has made him a number of powerful enemies. One of them is Allahyar Malekshahi, a hardliner member of the parliament from Lorestan who chairs the Parliamentary Committee for Legal and Judicial Affairs. Other enemies include Koohdasht’s governor and the head the local Natural Resources bureau.
In the summer of 2016, Ghalandari was arrested for spreading lies, but on August 30 was taken to a hospital following severe weakness due to kidney disease. He was released on bail on September 1 while he was in hospital.
“The head of the Natural Resources of this province had sued Sina,” a source close to Ghalandari told the Human Activists News Agency (HRANA). “The case was about the reports and articles that Mr. Ghalandari had written regarding a wildfires incident in the province and the death of one of the local peasants. He was fully exonerated in the court, but prosecutors had prevented his release for unknown reasons.”
“Sina suffers from kidney stones and one night before being summoned he was admitted to the hospital,” added the source. “However, at the detention center, because Sina had not eaten since morning and no food was given to him in detention, he had extreme fatigue and then he was transferred and admitted to the hospital.”
Earlier, in March 2016, Sina Ghalandari had spent nine days in the central prison of Lorestan following a complaint from the governor because of his question regarding the rumors that “he had thrown the Koran.”
In October 2016 the criminal court of Koohdasht sentenced Ghalandari to two years in prison for “spreading lies” in cyberspace. The verdict was issued without him being present in court. He was not summoned to attend the trial and he was not represented by a lawyer.
“In the recent parliamentary elections in Koohdasht, one of the reformist candidates was on the top during the counting and Sina had published the news and his supporters were rejoicing in the city,” a source told HRANA. “However, at the end of the night another candidate [Allahyar Malekshahi] who is currently a member of the parliament won, and then Sina published the news of his victory, and also retracted previous reports. Two days later, the people of this city spontaneously protested that the election was rigged and they gathered outside the governor’s office. The rally was suppressed with violence by security forces using tear gas. The security officials of the city said the reason for these incidents was Sina’s report about the election.”
68 Complaints, 15 Questionings
The appeals court overturned the original verdict and Ghalandari was released. In late July he told the Zeitoon news site that in the span of a year and a half the authorities had filed 68 complaints against him and that he had been summoned for questioning 15 times within a few months [Persian link].
And the MP Malekshahi did not relent, either. On December 2, 2017 Ghalandari was arrested again based on a complaint by Allahyar Malekshahi. Ghalandari was charged with “publishing falsehoods” based on his reports claiming Malekshahi and other powerful local leaders were involved in several corruption scandals, including an embezzlement case, according to the source.
“Every journalist or political activist who has criticized [Malekshahi] has ended up in court and prison,” a source told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI). “Now he’s pressing charges against Mr. Ghalandari.”
“Mr. Malekshahi served in Lorestan’s judicial system for many years and he now heads the judiciary committee in parliament,” said the source. “He has a lot of power and unfortunately he’s using it to intimidate his critics.”
The source said that the Cyber Police force took Ghalandari into custody without a warrant and that he was denied legal representation for the length of his detention. “He was summoned by the Cyber Police over the phone and when he went to the courthouse he was charged with ‘publishing falsehoods’ and bail was set at 30 million tomans ($8,540). The bail was ready to be paid but the judicial authorities transferred him to the Khorramabad Central Prison for a week without informing his family.”
Judicial harassment of local Iranian reporters like Ghalandari usually does not get much attention from the media, domestic or international. “This is a problem only faced not only by Sina Ghalandari,” the source told CHRI. “In the provinces, journalists generally have a much more difficult time than those in Tehran. They are often arrested and released without anyone ever hearing about it. They are beaten and threatened. Even their families are intimidated.”
Sina Ghalandari was released on bail after spending 18 days in detention, pending further action by the judiciary.
Updated: December 26, 2017
“Sina Ghalandari Released on the Bail,” Human Activists News Agency (HRANA), September 17, 2016
“Sina Ghalandari Sentenced to 2 Years in Prison,” Human Activists News Agency (HRANA), November 5, 2016
سینا قلندری٬ خبرنگار لرستانی٬ بهرغم بیماری احضار شد, Zeitoon News site, July 31, 2017
سینا قلندری، خبرنگار در کوهدشت لرستان، با قرار ضمانت آزاد شد, Radio Farda, December 25, 2017
“Independent Iranian Journalist Facing Prosecution For Criticizing Powerful Politician”, Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI), December 25, 2017