Iran : Open season on journalists after deadly crackdown on protests
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is alarmed by Iran’s latest witch-hunt against journalists, especially photographers and cameramen. At least 11 have been arrested – above all in Tehran, Isfahan, Abadan, Gachsaran and Sarpol-e Zahab – since the start of a wave of anti-government protests on 16 November.
After the Internet’s partial restoration in some regions, reports have emerged of hundreds of dead and many arrests. According to the parliamentarian Hossein Naghavi Hosseini, a member of the national security and foreign policy committee, more than 7,000 people have been arrested.
In a communiqué published on 27 November, the ministry of intelligence announced the arrests of six individuals who had been “trained abroad as citizen-journalists to film and take photos.” The communiqué did not name them or say where they were arrested.
Many other journalists have been summoned by revolutionary tribunals or by the intelligence services. The prosecutor’s office in the city of Abadan issued an arrest warrant on 27 November for five local journalists and writers: Mandana Sadeghi, Darioush Memar, Hoda Karimi Sadar, Hossein Mousavi and Koresh Karampour. All are accused of anti-government propaganda, insulting Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and disturbing public order.
RSF has been able to confirm that three photojournalists – Alireza Vasiq, Majid Hojati and Payman Shah Sanai – were arrested while covering protests in the central city of Isfahan on 17 November. The photographer Arash Sediqi was arrested in the southern city of Gachsaran of 27 November. Raha Askarizadeh, a photojournalist and human rights defender, Farda Mostafa Mohebikia, a journalist with the monthly Iran, and Fereshteh Cheraghi, a photojournalist, were arrested in the eastern city of Sarpol-e Zahab on 28 and 29 November.
On 30 November, a ministry of intelligence communiqué announced “the confiscation of the possessions of journalists and employees of the privately-owned TV channel Iran International,” going on to describe them as “enemies of the Islamic Republic” and “terrorists.” Iran International is a Persian-language satellite TV channel based in London.
“This is the first time the Iranian intelligence services have targeted a foreign media outlet so openly,” said Reza Moini, the head of RSF’s Iran-Afghanistan desk. “These confiscations, combined with the many arrests of reporters and photographers, show that the Islamic Republic continues to use the most repressive methods.”
RSF calls for the immediate and unconditional release of the jailed reporters and photographers. It also calls on the seven European countries with Persian-language media outlets and news services, including France, Britain and Germany, to “intercede directly with the Iranian government in defence of the fundamental right to inform.”
Iran is ranked 170th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index.