There are 21 journalists and citizen-journalists, men and women, who are preparing to spend Iran’s traditional New Year celebration on 21 March in prison, instead of at home with their families, where they should be.
Around 10,000 prisoners were given Nowruz pardons last year, according to Iran’s Judicial Authority. But none of them were journalists. No “security” detainees – the Islamic Republic’s term for prisoners of conscience, including journalists – have ever been given Nowruz pardons.
“The latest report by Javaid Rehman, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Iran, confirms that the Islamic Republic of Iran is one of the world’s worst countries as regards suppressing press freedom,” said Reza Moini, the head of RSF’s Iran-Afghanistan desk. “Twenty-one journalists are arbitrarily detained, unjustly convicted and denied their rights. They must be freed at once to allow them to spend the Nowruz festivities with their families, from whom they should never have been separated.”
The past year has been especially tough for Iranian journalists because of the Covid-19 pandemic and the censorship imposed on most reporting about the disastrous handling of the crisis and the real figures for infections and deaths. RSF logged a total of 54 case of journalists being questioned, arrested or convicted from March 2020 to March 2021.
The Iranian authorities persecute the families of journalists as well as the journalists themselves. The authorities put a great deal of pressure on relatives, sometimes arresting them and in some cases even sentencing them to imprisonment.
This has been the case with Farangis Mazloom, the mother of Soheil Arabi, an imprisoned photo-journalist who was awarded the RSF Press Freedom Prize in the citizen-journalist category in 2017. An appeal court confirmed Mazloom’s 18-month prison sentence at the start of March. Alireza Alinejad, the brother of Masih Alinejad, a journalist living in self-imposed exile, has also had his eight-year jail sentence confirmed.
Iran has just fallen three places in RSF's 2020 World Press Freedom Index and is now ranked 173rd out of 180 countries