Telling the truth is a crime in Iran, says journalist Mohammad Mosaed, winner of the 2020 press freedom award of the US-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

Mosaed received his award Thursday at a ceremony in New York City after one year's delay now that he is safely out of Iran and living in the US, which CPJ says has played a “powerful role…historically in supporting press freedom around the world.”

In a video-taped speech, Mosaed identified "just a few examples of the countless sufferings of Iranians” in missiles shooting down a Ukrainian passenger plane in 2020; the killing of hundreds of protesters in 2019; economic crisis and corruption; and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei ruling against the import of US- and British-made vaccines.

"The crucial point about each of these catastrophes is that we were never properly made aware of their dimensions," Mosaed said. "Speaking the truth is dangerous in my country because the government fears not only the truth itself but also the audacity behind telling the truth and this has turned speaking the truth into a crime in my country."

Mosaed was unable to receive his award last year as he had fled to Turkey to seek asylum.He was detained by Turkish authorities in January and faced the possibility of extradition to Iran.

"At that time he was in danger and could not speak to us openly," Yeganeh Rezaian (Salehi), an Iranian journalist who has worked for Bloomberg and the Abu-Dhabi owned National newspaper. Rezaian was arrested along with her American-Iranian journalist husband Jason Rezaian in 2014 and spent months in Evin prison, Tehran.

"Being summoned to serve more than four years in prison for the crime of exposing financial corruption, Mohammad fled Iran for neighboring Turkey,” she told ICJ. “There he faced the prospect of being sent back. Thanks to CPJ and others, Mohammad is safe.”

In his speech Mosaed criticized the Iranian government for "increasingly cracking down on domestic and foreign journalists, by expelling, exiling, persecution of their families, and widespread propaganda."

Mosaed was arrested in 2019 after posts on Twitter about an internet shutdown. “Knock Even! Hello Free World!" he tweeted in English, adding that he had used 42 different proxies to find a way to post. "Millions of Iranians don't have the internet. Can you hear us?”

He was then released and subsequently detained after he had criticized the government over management of the Covid pandemic. In September 2020 Mosaed was sentenced by a Revolutionary Court to four years and nine months in prison on security and propaganda charges, and banned from journalism and using communications devices for two years.

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