No cause of death is yet known, but the Committee says torture of bloggers is common in Iran and they are usually placed in close proximity to the most dangerous criminals in any facility. Misayafi was sentenced in December to 30 months in prison "for insulting Islamic Republic Leaders." The man said he was a cultural blogger, not a political one, and only wrote a few satirical articles that got him into trouble.
An update tonight indicates that the prison conditions may have led the man to take his own life. Directly or indirectly, it appears that Misayafi's life has been brought to an end for exercising free speech, for criticizing an authoritarian state and for doing it using online social media. Social media users and advocates around the world should take note of this event.
We've reported here on a number of bloggers imprisoned in Iran and in Egypt for documenting government abuses or just writing critical words about governments that demand total compliance. In the middle of last year we wrote about Iran's parliament debating legislation that would add the death penalty to the list of possible punishments for using blogs to challenge government authority.
It is a timeless battle all around the world between freedom, art and self expression on one side and authority, expediency and abuse on the other. The rise of the web has made that battle different, though. Blogs give a voice to the previously voiceless, and the historical and moral importance of efforts to save those new voices from arrest, torture and death cannot be overstated.
We would love to see the Obama administration, which has made extensive use of online social media, publicly and explicitly condemn this death at the Iranian government's hands. We'd be surprised if that happened.
Social media is powerful and changing the world; we don't expect that this will be the last person to lose their life over it. Omid Reza Misayafi, brave Iranian blogger, may you rest in peace. May all those imprisoned for blogging in Iran, and around the world, be set free.
For ongoing coverage of this and all-too similar situations around the world, see The Committee to Protect Bloggers and associated organizations linked to on their site.