Iran is currently experiencing some of the darkest days for press freedom that it has ever seen or indeed that any country has ever seen, with the government using the persecution of journalists to stifle calls for freedom.
According to just the official figures, which are generally much lower than the true figure, some 20 journalists have been sentenced to death there in the past 20 years, while Reporters Without Borders (RSF) says that Iran has executed more journalists in the past 50 years than any other country on earth.
“Sentencing prisoners of conscience including journalists to death is the most extreme way to suppress freedom of expression. It is time the Islamic Republic finally abandoned these cruel punishments from another era,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said.
Of course, the government arrests journalists under multiple different false reasons, including:
- propaganda against the state
- acting against national security
- dissemination of lies
- collaboration with enemy governments
But the Iranian Constitution makes clear that the press cannot write things that are harmful to the system or the public, which appears to be anything that the authorities do not like.
To mark the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, which was last week, we have a report on the situation of female journalists in Iran who were persecuted just for doing their jobs.
- Zahra Kazemi: This Iranian-Canadian journalist was arrested outside Evin Prison in Tehran in 2003 for taking pictures of a protest by the families of Evin prisoners. She was beaten to death in custody by Tehran’s Prosecutor Saeed Mortazavi, but the government covered it up.
- Nada Sabouri: This journalist took part in a protest in 2014 following an attack by Evin Prison guards on detainees and was sentenced to 3.5 years in prison for “collusion against the system.”
- Tahereh Riyahi: This social editor for the semi-official BORNA news agency was arrested by the Intelligence Ministry in 2016 and accused of” propaganda against the state”. In her last phone call, she told her family not to wait for her anymore.
- Zeinab Rahimi: This former environmental journalist for the semi-official ISNA news agency, was dismissed in April for “communicating with the enemy”.
- Kowsar Karimi: The first to report on the demolition of houses in Abolfazl village, was arrested in September on the charge of “propaganda against the state”.
- Aliyeh Motallebzadeh: This photographer, women’s rights activist, and head of the Association Defending Freedom of the Press, was transferred to Evin Prison in October 2020 and is serving three years in prison.
- Negar Massoudi: This photographer and documentary filmmaker who was reporting on acid attacks against women in Isfahan, was arrested by Intelligence Ministry agents in October 2020.
- 50 female journalists were fired from the semi-official ANA news agency in September 2018 because of their gender.
“Cracking down on freedom of the press in Iran is not a new phenomenon. The mullahs’ oppressive regime is expanding its suppressive measures as it is engulfed in irremediable crises,” the Iranian Resistance wrote.
“The Iranian regime’s dark record on freedom of the press and treatment of journalists in Iran must be censured by international organizations. The regime must be held to account for its persecution of journalists and reporters in Iran.”