With 41 journalists in prison, Iran is now the world’s 3rd biggest jailer of journalists
A month into widespread protests and unrest, Iran now ranks third after China and Myanmar with the world’s highest number of journalist prisoners. According to Reporters Without Borders (RSF) data, the number of journalists imprisoned in Iran has been unprecedented for the last two decades. RSF calls for the immediate release of all detained journalists and concrete steps to reverse this deterioration in press freedom without delay.
"Recent unrest in Iran showed that journalists are among the most targeted groups in the country. The government of Iran has taken advantage of the ongoing arrest to silence the voices of journalists and independent media at an alarming accelerated rate. This crackdown on the right to inform has reached unprecedented lows. We call on the Iranian authorities to reverse this trend immediately, by releasing all detained journalists in the country and ceasing interference with the work of independent media providing a crucial public service.
Nilufar Hamedi was one of the first journalists to expose the story of Mahsa Amini, who died after being arrested by Iranian police for “improper clothing”, and was therefore one of the first journalists to be imprisoned. After Mahsa Amini's death on 16 September, Iranian forces incarcerated a total of 31 journalists, 27 of whom, including 10 women journalists, are still behind the bars. As 14 journalists were already detained before this new wave of protest and crackdown, this brings the total number of imprisoned journalists in Iran to 41, standing after China with 102 and Myanmar with 67 journalists in jail.
RSF data show that the number of journalists presently detained in Iran has never been higher in decades, even if the previous wave of protests were also severely repressed. Journalists imprisoned by the Iranian authorities during the unrest caused by an important increase in fuel prices in 2019 were 33, up from 30 in 2018, a year marked by several civil protests.
"I dare to say that in the last five years and after going through several protests, there has never been such pressure from the security institutions like this period, during nationwide protests after the murder of Mahsa Amini. In all periods, there was a lot of pressure on the media and journalists, and we had threats and summons, but not as much as today," an Iranian journalist told RSF on the condition of anonymity.
No place seems to be safe for journalists. They have been arrested in 14 different cities ranging from small towns to the country's capital, Tehran.
According to RSF findings, as restrictions on media and journalistic work have continued to increase by the Iranian authorities, not only have journalists been detained and tortured for covering demonstrations, but at least 13 of them have been arrested in raids on their homes by Iranian security forces.
“Last night when I was asleep my phone rang and my son’s wife told me crying that they were breaking the door of the house. We went to the house of Navid Jamshidi, our son, to see what was happening. Ten people had entered the house and they had tied Navid Jamshidi’s hands from behind and were searching the house. I don’t know what they were looking for.” Iraj Jamshidi, father of Navid Jamshidi and founder of Asianews explained in a video released on 25 September on his website. Navid Jamshidi, a freelance journalist, has been detained by Iranian forces since September 24 for unknown reasons.
Since the beginning of the protests, access to information and the work of journalists have been in the sights of the Iranian government. On the one hand, Internet access is cut off almost every day and access to VPNs is prevented by the authorities. Independent media in Iran, on the other hand, is strictly under the supervision of the Iranian authorities, and this restriction has caused many to engage in self-censorship in order to protect their media organisations and their journalists from attacks by security forces.
Iran has long held one of the world’s worst press freedom rankings, at 178th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2022 World Press Freedom Index.