Reporters Without Borders (RSF) says it is "appalled" by a Tehran court’s decision to uphold prison sentences for four journalists from the Gam (Step) online magazine.
However, the appeals court in Tehran reduced the length of the jail terms from 18 to five years for each journalist -- Amirhossein Mohammadifard, Sanaz Allahyari, Amir Amirgholi, and Assal Mohammadi -- for a combined total of 20 years, the Paris-based media freedom watchdog said on December 18.
The initial sentences were passed by a Tehran revolutionary court in September.
The journalists were arrested a year ago on what Amnesty International called “spurious” national security charges related to their reporting on workers’ rights protests in Khuzestan Province over grievances concerning unpaid wages and poor conditions.
"Their prosecution forms part of a wider crackdown on labor rights activists and journalists covering the protests at Haft Tappeh [sugar] company in late 2018," the London-based group said in July.
RSF said on December 18 that the same appeals court in Tehran also upheld a prison sentence for Marzieh Amiri, a journalist for the reformist Shargh newspaper, but reduced her sentence from 10 years in prison and 148 lashes to five years in prison.
Amiri was arrested in May after covering a demonstration outside parliament in the capital.
She and the other four journalists were released in October pending the decision by the appeals court, RSF said.
The rulings come as Iran is facing international condemnation for its crackdown on the protests that rocked more than 100 cities across the country last month that were triggered by gasoline-price hikes and a rationing plan.
Amnesty International this week said at least 304 people had been killed during the several days of protests and that the authorities were continuing to carry out a "vicious crackdown," arresting thousands of protesters, journalists, human rights defenders, and students to "stop them from speaking out about Iran’s ruthless repression."
Iranian officials have dismissed Amnesty's death toll figures as "lies."