TEHRAN, April 27 (UPI) -- Iran's judiciary sent a strong message to the nation's news media this week by sentencing four journalists to long prison terms for supposed national security crimes.
The journalists worked for reformist newspapers and were supportive of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani's calls for press freedoms in the traditionally conservative Islamic nation.
Afarin Chitsaz, Ehsan Mazandarani, Saman Safarzai and Davud Asadi were each found guilty Tuesday of charges of acting against national security.
Chitsaz was sentenced to 10 years, Mazandarani and Safarzai were given seven years, and Asadi received five years.
All four were arrested in November by Revolutionary Guard intelligence agents on suspicion of helping the United States infiltrate Iran. Their arrest and prosecution appears to indicate that Iran's conservative judiciary will not accept new press freedoms, even if they are advocated by Rouhani.
The jail sentences were quickly condemned by a New York-based advocacy group, the Committee to Protect Journalists.
"Convicting journalists for 'acting against national security' underlines the need to change the overbroad laws that lead to the harassment and jailing of the media," the committee said in a statement. "Iranian authorities must cease imprisoning journalists."
Attorneys for the journalists said they will appeal the court's decision.
"These verdicts are all unfair," former journalist Sayer Mohammadi said. "We have no job security. Every day something can happen to us."