Presidential election in Iran: the ongoing repression of journalists must end now

As the Iranian presidential elections take place today 28 June, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) demands that the future government immediately ceases the relentless, multifaceted repression of journalists. Twenty-five journalists are currently detained, many others are under surveillance, and oppressive laws hinder their work. These authoritarian policies must end.

Independent investigative journalists Saba Azarpeik and Yashar Soltani are the latest reporters to be imprisoned in Iran due to their work. Sentenced on 11 June 2024 to 2 years and 13 months in prison respectively, for spreading “false information" and "propaganda against the state," they are among almost thirty journalists stuck behind bars in the country.

Arbitrary detentions, surveillance, censorship, and oppressive laws constitute Iran’s growing arsenal of repression against journalists. RSF calls on the future Iranian president, who will be chosen in today’s election, to stop this crackdown.

"The situation in Iran is intolerable for journalists. The repression – which intensified following the 'Woman, Life, Freedom' protest movement of September 2022 – persists, and the climate of censorship imposed by the government continues to terrorize reporters. As long as these obstacles remain embedded in the laws, practices, and policies of the Iranian regime, information will remain restricted and journalists will continue to face severe penalties. It is crucial that the new authorities put an end to this, at all levels, and release the imprisoned journalists.

Jonathan Dagher
Head of RSF’s Middle East Desk

Legislative repression

The crackdown on journalists is carried out through many different legislative measures. Since 2022, at least 14 journalists have faced charges such as "propaganda against the state," "conspiring against national security," or "publishing lies, defamation, slander, threats." All three of these charges were brought against journalists Niloofar Hamedi and Elaheh Mohammadi. While Article 24 of the Iranian Constitution guarantees press freedom, it specifies that it must not violate "Islamic principles" or "public interest," vague terms that are frequently interpreted in a way that suppresses dissent.

Arbitrary detentions

Often arrested without charge and detained in hidden locations, many journalists disappearHadi Kasaie Zadeh, journalist and editor-in-chief of the newspaper Meydan-e Azad,  was arrested and transferred to an unknown location on 21 June before being released later that day. He had just published an article on the death of Nika Shakarami, a teenager who went missing during the "Woman, Life, Freedom" protests in 2022. Of the 83 journalists imprisoned during the movement, 29 were  women, making up a third of the imprisoned journalists. Victims of legal ploys, lengthy detentions, and enforced disappearances.

Media censorship

Tactics to intimidate journalists extend to police raids  of news headquarters, such as the attack on  Farda-e-Eghtesad, an economic newspaper. The day after the raid, government-backed news agency Mizan stated that "the inspection of media premises by judicial officers and the arrests were not related to their journalistic and media activities," yet did not provide any further details. The sequestration and detention of Farda-e-Eghtesad’s staff were prompted by the publication of a video report— which has since been deleted — about the government’s circumvention of international sanctions. Similarly, the daily Etemad has received several threats from the government  spurred by their journalistic activities, such as their analysis criticizing Iran's attacks on Israel, published on 13 April 13 2024.

Violence and surveillance

Iranian journalists suffer "physical and psychological violence," both in and outside of prison. Nobel laureate, journalist, and writer Narges Mohammadi was sentenced to 154 lashes, a punishment that flagrantly violates international human rights laws but is commonly inflicted on Iran’s reporters. Even Iranian journalists in exile, particularly those working for BBC Persia and Iran International, report they’ve faced death threats and online abuse from the Iranian government and its allies.

176/ 180
Score : 21.3
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