The IPI global network condemns the Iranian government’s decision to close the reformist daily newspaper Sazandegi for allegedly publishing “false content” and “disturbing public opinion.” The Iranian government must stop attempting to silence criticism by punishing independent media and prosecuting journalists.
Authorities from the Press Supervision Council, a body of the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, shut down the reformist daily newspaper on February 20 after it published a front-page story about the government’s economic policies amid escalating meat prices, according to Iran International. The state news reported that the decision to shut down Sazandegi was based on its publication of “false content” that “disturbed public opinion”.
The closure of Sazandegi comes five months after the death of Mahsa Amini at the hands of Iran’s morality police sparked nationwide protests. Mass anti-government protests that began in September 2022 have been further fueled by an economic crisis as the country’s currency has reached record lows.
The Iranian government has imposed a major crackdown on the media, arresting scores of journalists, banning international news outlets from entering the country, and restricting access to the internet and social media platforms. At least 95 journalists have been arrested since the start of the protests and in multiple cases, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.
“The closure of Sazandegi is the government’s latest attack on press freedom in Iran”, IPI Director of Advocacy Amy Brouillette said. “The regime deploys a range of authoritarian measures to restrict independent media and silence opinions critical of the government’s policies. We stand in solidarity with all the courageous journalists and citizen journalists who continue to exercise their fundamental right to freedom of expression at such great personal risk.”
Lawmakers in Iran are considering two pieces of legislation that would further restrict free speech, according to Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN). The first bill criminalizes the publication of news by citizens and media outlets that has “detrimental societal consequences,” while the second proposed bill criminalizes statements made by public figures on social media who express opinions “inconsistent with the reality” in Iran as promulgated by the government. If passed, the proposed legislation would give the government additional tools to further restrict freedom of expression and to criminalize the work of journalists, citizen journalists, and activists who are fighting for a democratic and inclusive Iranian society.