As President Hassan Rouhani’s inauguration ceremonies got underway on Thursday, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) called on the re-elected president to keep his promises regarding “media freedom” and promoting “the rule of law”.
“Above all, RSF calls for the unconditional release of the 10 journalists and 17 citizen-journalists currently detained in Iran”.
Describing Iran as of the world’s five biggest prisons for journalists, RSF also says that during Rouhani’s first term at least 200 journalists and citizen journalists “were summoned, detained and interrogated” and many of them given sentences ranging from 3 months to 16 years in prison.
RSF in its statement draws a distinction between Iran’s judiciary and Revolutionary Guards, who are overseen by the supreme leader and are implicated in most of the persecution, and organs under Rouhani’s control.
But RSF insists that the Intelligence Ministry, accountable to Rouhani, has also been involved, especially from December 2016 to March 2017.
“Rouhani won 57% of the votes cast... He must not forget that it was his comments about free speech and media freedom and the release of political prisoners that persuaded progressively-minded Iranians, especially women and young people, to vote for him...”, RSF maintains.
Therefore, the re-elected president should work to free opposition leaders who are under house arrest, to unconditionally release 27 journalists and to overhaul Iran’s media legislation, making sure journalists’ rights are protected, RSF concludes.
Journalists are one of the most vulnerable groups in civil society, as the authorities have shown heightened sensitivity to control the media from the time of Mohammad Khatami’s presidency.