Submitted by 41 parliamentarians on 18 April, although its existence was not announced until more than a week later, the bill says the two prohibitions are justified because the US and British media and their journalists are responsible for “many actions against national interests and against the Islamic Republic,” including supporting sanctions against Iran.
Violations of the proposed law would be punishable by five to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to 360 million rials (80 million euros).
“This proposed law is ridiculous as well as lacking any legitimacy,” said Reza Moini, the head of RSF Iran-Afghanistan’s desk. “The media it targets are an integral part of the world in which we live and of which the Islamic Republic is part, regardless of what it says. Furthermore, the Persian-language sections of certain international media are the main sources of freely and independently reported news and information for Iranians. We call for the rejection of this bill, which would contribute to the increasingly draconian nature of Iran’s policies.”
The bill was submitted just weeks ahead of Iran’s presidential election in June, of which the international media coverage is unlikely to please the regime because it is clear that the electoral process is just a smokescreen for the future president’s designation by the Supreme Leader. Coming on the heels of the censorship measures adopted last year, the bill would just help to further erode Iran’s increasingly vulnerable press freedom.
Currently foreign journalists are placed under close surveillance by the authorities as soon as they arrive in the Islamic Republic and their journalism is subjected to a form of censorship in which, if they fail to toe the official line, they can end up having to leave.
International media and journalists are not the only ones to be threatened. Iranian journalists – and sometimes their family members as well – have for years been subjected to harassment, arrest and long prisons sentences.
Iran is ranked 174th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2021 World Press Freedom Index.