In a statement released on Wednesday, the Journalists Union of Tehran warned about the dire circumstances of the Iranian print media and said the situation is unprecedented in its 160-year history.
"During this long history the print media and journalists have always been under the inauspicious threat of being purged by security bodies but in the current circumstances even the existence of print media, particularly newspapers, is highly in danger," the statement said.
Iran's media freedom rank is 173 out of the 180 countries in the latest press freedom index of Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and journalists are often intimidated, arrested and jailed to stop them from reporting freely.
Journalists Union of Tehran Province was formed in 2016 after efforts to revive the banned Union of Iranian Journalists proved fruitless. The nationwide union which had been accepted as a member of the International Federation of Journalists was shut down by the order of then prosecutor of Tehran, the notorious judge Saeed Mortazavi, often referred to as the "Butcher of the Press" in June 2008.
"Having free and independent media is people's basic and fundamental right. The issue now is not simply the unemployment or irresponsible lay off of some journalists, it's the deprivation of a nation from having free and independent press that matters," the statement said.
According to the statement the economic crisis has become so dire that newspaper companies can hardly manage to survive and the first group that have had to bear the brunt are journalists whose job security is hugely under threat.
The statement strongly condemns the government and the Ministry of Islamic Guidance for negligence of the circumstances that the print media have been enduring. Many newspapers have in the past year reduced the size of their operation and laid off their staff due to the much higher costs of publishing due to high inflation and huge devaluation of the national currency. Without government subsidies, especially for imported paper, these privately-owned newspapers have very little chance of survival.
"The government and the Ministry of Islamic Guidance are so negligent of the problems newspapers face that we are forced to suspect they actually welcome the death of the print media and have left them to their own devices to gradually die of economic pressure," the statement of the union alleged.