Iran: at least 33 journalists in jail while the world marks #AccessToInfoDay

On the International Day for Universal Access to Information, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the Iranian government to immediately stop the suppression of journalists, to release the ones in detention, to allow free media to have access to information and to restore the network integrity.

Update of 29/09/22:

Ham-Mihan journalist Elahe Mohammadi, who had covered Mahsa Amini's funeral, was arrested today. In addition, RSF sources confirmed the detention of three other journalists, namely Aria Jafari, a photojournalist for ISNA, Mohsen Rawari and Mohsen Ahmadizadeh, local reporters in the city of Jiroft, in the southeastern province of Kerman, who were arrested last week. The number of newly detained journalists in Iranian prisons now stands at 23 out of a total of 37 journalists in jail.

While many countries around the world are marking International Day for Universal Access to Information, on this day, Iranian journalists are facing a new wave of restrictions in access to information and at least 33 journalists are today behind bars, RSF’s Middle East desk said. RSF calls on the Iranian authorities to immediately release the detained journalists, to stop interfering with the coverage of the ongoing protests and to allow journalists to do their job freely.”

According to RSF sources, 14  journalists were already jailed before the new wave of protests which started on 16 September. Since then, arrests of journalists have increased and at least 19 other journalists, including two photographers and seven female journalists, are now detained in the capital Tehran, and in different towns all over the country.

Authorities in cities such as Tehran, Qazvin, Rasht, Amol (north of Iran), and Ahvaz (the capital of the southwestern province of Khuzestan), have summoned and threatened dozens of journalists, ordering them to stop publishing stories about the latest protests on their news outlets, as well as personal social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Among journalists detained, three of them, Masoud Kordpour, Marzia Talayi and Ali Khatibzadeh are working for Mukrian News Agency. Nilufar Hamedi, a Shargh newspaper reporter who went to the hospital where Mahsa Amini was in a coma before she died and helped draw public attention to her plight, is also detained following an Iranian security forces raid on her home on Thursday 22 September, 2022. 

Farshid Ghorbanpour, a reporter for Haft-e-Sobh (“07 a.m.”), was arrested by security forces during a raid on his home on Sunday, September 25 at around 04:00 a.m. He has been detained since then.

“Many journalists have either shifted to other cities or have disguised and sought refuge in the houses of their relatives and friends, following the increasing arrests and detentions by the Iranian authorities”, a reporter told RSF on the condition of anonymity. 

The Iranian authorities have stepped up attacks on the journalists in response to the wave of massive protests throughout the country since 16 September, when Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish Iranian woman, died in custody following her arrest by the morality police for being “improperly dressed.”

The International Day for Universal Access to Information (#AccessToInfoDay), serves as a reminder that every nation has the right to access information, and governments should provide this service to their citizens. 

In Iran, since the beginning of the protests, the Islamic Republic has severely blocked access to Instagram, WhatsApp, LinkedIn and Skype, the last major western platforms still accessible in Iran. The government has also cut off the Internet in the country. 

The Internet has been completely shut down in western Iran's Kurdistan province, where Amini was born and where the first protests took place. Other major cities, including Tehran, have reported partial Internet restrictions. Twelve days after the beginning of the protests, the Internet network is still down daily throughout the country.

The disruptions of the Internet network are daily and observed in the whole country. The government is blocking the country's DNS servers, whose proper functioning is essential to ensure connection to the global network, as well as many sites and VPN servers, the only tools to effectively counter the blockages. The mobile Internet is also in the government's sights, and it has been hit hard. 

In addition, Google Play and Apple's App Store have both been blocked. Both stores provide strategic services and products to circumvent censorship, especially since the U.S. Treasury Department has eased sanctions against Iran to allow U.S. companies to provide the services necessary to maintain a stable Internet. The blocking of these application stores prevents Iranians from accessing VPNs for their mobile devices with simple interfaces.

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