The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) says “little has changed” for the press in Iran despite promises of reform by President Hassan Rouhani, citing a “climate of fear through harassment and surveillance.”
The current international focus on Iran and its economic ties with Europe could “represent an opening to engage with the country over press freedom and other lapsed human rights,” the New York-based media watchdog said in a report released on May 24.
Journalists in Iran told CPJ that they have “increased latitude to report on social issues, largely thanks to the combination of smartphones, increased Internet bandwidth, and apps such as Telegram,” the report said.
But these efforts are met with “increasing pressure” for regulation as hard-liners “move aggressively to control the online space, and journalists using the platforms are at risk of surveillance," it also found.
Some subjects remain “completely off-limits,” such as the powerful Guardians Council, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, and the judiciary, according to the report.
“The ongoing, systematic threats journalists face covering Iran must be addressed if the country is serious about improving its record,” CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour said in a statement.
Rouhani, who sought reelection last year on the promise of a more open Iran, “needs to be held to the press freedom commitments he made, and these fundamental rights should be a priority as the international community negotiates with Iran,” Mansour added.
CPJ said journalists in Iran are “still recovering” from a government crackdown after the disputed 2009 election, during which the group documented 52 journalists jailed in retaliation for their work.