The IPI global network is deeply alarmed by the arrests of at least 60 Iranian journalists and increasing internet restrictions amid nationwide protests sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini in September. Authorities must immediately release all detained journalists in Iran and must cease blocking access to vital information and communications platforms.
The Iranian government has imposed a significant crackdown on the media since the wave of protests flared up across the country after Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman, died while in the custody of the “morality police” in Tehran on September 16. Amini had been arrested a few days prior, for allegedly breaching Iran’s strict dress code for women. Authorities have responded to the protests with indiscriminate violence that has resulted in the deaths of several hundred protestors and the imprisonment of thousands.
Iranian security forces have arrested at least 61 journalists as of November 8, according to data collected by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). Authorities have claimed that two jailed female journalists, Niloofar Hamedi and Elahe Mohammadi, are foreign agents working for the Central Intelligence Agency. Hamedi and Mohammadi had been among the first to break the story about Amini’s death. The crime of spying for a foreign government is punishable by death under Iranian law.
This crackdown on media freedom has extended to journalists working for international news outlets as well, many of whom the government banned from entering the country. Authorities have also restricted internet access throughout the country and blocked access to various internet platforms, such as Instagram, WhatsApp, and Skype.
Such repressive measures come after decades of pressure and attacks by regime hardliners against reformist media and independent journalists, as well as heavy controls over online media and communications. As such, journalists in Iran operate in one of the most restrictive media environments in the world. The country’s broadcast media are entirely state-controlled and -operated. Print and online newspapers aligned with the Iranian reformist movement exist but operate in an increasingly intolerant atmosphere for criticism of the regime’s policies, while independent journalists face constant persecution in the form of harassment and arbitrary arrests.
“IPI strongly condemns this latest wave of repression of the media in Iran”, IPI Director of Advocacy Amy Brouillette said. “The Iranian authorities must release all journalists held behind bars in connection with their work and restore access to the internet. Journalists should not be harassed and punished for doing their job of reporting on matters of public interest.”
She added: “The members of the IPI global network stand in solidarity with our Iranian colleagues and with the protestors pushing for greater human rights in Iran.”