There is nothing to celebrate in the area of media freedom on the 39th anniversary of the Islamic Republic, according to a report from Paris-based media freedom advocates Reporters Without Borders (RSF).
In a report published February 11 to coincide with the anniversary of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, RSF says the Iranian regime continues to suppress journalists both within Iran and outside its borders, listing a litany of cases concerning banned newspapers, censorship, and detentions and harassment of journalists.
“On the 39th anniversary of the Iranian revolution, RSF reiterates its condemnation of the regime's harassment of journalists and citizen-journalists. Thirty-nine years after the revolution, as young men and women protest in the streets, the Islamic Republic is trying to reinforce its news control both at home and internationally,” the report reads.
Since RSF began tracking abuses in Iran in 1997, “At least 350 media outlets have been closed, more than 800 journalists and citizen-journalists have been detained and interrogated and around 500 of them have been given prison sentences ranging three months to 19 years. All have been denied their rights. Millions of Internet pages of freely and independently reported news and information have been censored,” the watchdog reported.
The report continues, “For the past 39 years, the regime's control of news and information has been implacable and its persecution of media independence has been unparalleled. The exact number of journalists arrested and convicted during this dark period in Iran’s history—especially during the purge years—is still not officially known.”
Dismissing Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei’s recent comments proudly describing Iran as “the freest country in the world,” RSF reiterates, “Since 2000, Khamenei has waged a merciless war against the emergent reformist press.”
While accusing the Islamic Republic of expanding its attacks on freedom of expression and independent media beyond Iran’s borders, RSF also accuses Tehran of creating “fake news” and fake media institutions, including Islamic Union of Radio & TV.
Moreover, RSF names some of the so-called “media” that are officially listed by the Culture Ministry as foreign news outlets, but are in fact owned and financed by the Islamic Republic
“Fifteen of them are Lebanese or Iraqi outlets such as Al-Manar and Al-Mayadin (Hezbollah's two TV channels) and Al-Etejah and Al-Forat (Iraq's Shiite TV channels). The latter four outlets are wholly funded by the Iranian regime.”
The report highlights pressure exerted on foreign reporters based in Iran, including Iranian journalists with dual U.S. citizenship like Roxana Saberi and Washington Post Correspondent Jason Rezaian, who were imprisoned on charges of espionage and later released.
Foreign news agencies’ staff in Iran are closely monitored and harassed, RSF notes, citing a former Tehran-based AFP reporter as saying, “The regime exercises its control by placing journalists within the agency who can tell the authorities what's going on there, or by threatening the foreign journalists who don't accept the censor's rules. There have been several cases of journalists who have even been accused of indecent behavior and have been threatened with imprisonment.