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Iran’s six-month-old crackdown on media and Internet

first_img June 9, 2021 Find out more Receive email alerts News Help by sharing this information IranMiddle East – North Africa RSF_en Support Iranian journalists in danger.Make a donationSix months after Iran’s disputed 12 June presidential election, the authorities continue to censor news and information and persecute journalists. More than 100 journalists have been arrested in these past six months and around 50 have fled into exile. A dozen newspapers have been closed by the authorities and access to thousands of Internet pages has been blocked.More than 100 arrests, 3 billion toman in bail, and near 65 years in prisonWithin hours of the announcement of President Mahmoud Ahmadinedjad’s election “victory,” journalists were being arrested by the intelligence ministry, Revolutionary Guards and other security services. Most were taken to Tehran’s Evin prison. At least 100 journalists and bloggers have been arrested since 12 June and 27 are still being held. Iran is one of the world’s five biggest prisons for journalists.Like Chile’s national stadium in Santiago after the 1973 military coup, Evin prison has been turned into a massive holding centre for political detainees, most of whom are mistreated and subject to considerable psychological harassment.Some journalists have been freed in exchange for the payment of exorbitant sums in bail, after being given prison sentences ranging from five to nine years. Others have been released pending trial.Meanwhile, journalists continue to be harassed in the major provincial cities such as Mashhad, Isfahan, Shiraz and Tabriz, where they are often summoned, interrogated and threatened.All-out censorship of national and international mediaSince the day after Ahmadinejad’s poll “victory,” the national and international media have been subject to massive and systematic censorship that is without precedent in Iran. For the first time since the 1979 revolution, the security services have been systematically vetting the content of newspapers before they are published.Several newspapers have been censored after publishing articles contradicting the official line, while others, including more than 10 national dailies, have been closed down altogether. They include Kalameh Sabz (13 June), Etemad-e Melli (17 August) and the business newspaper Sarmayeh (2 November). The latest is the daily Hayat-e no, closed down on 8 December after carrying reports about the crackdown on the previous day’s National Student Day protests. The authorities have increasingly demonised the foreign media, especially the western media, since 12 June, accusing them of being the “mouthpieces of the rioters.” The ministry of culture and Islamic orientation issued a decree on 16 June banning foreign media from “participating in or covering gatherings organised without the interior ministry’s permission.”Several foreign journalists have been forced to leave the country while those who have been able to stay are under constant pressure. One the eve of the 7 December demonstrations, some were told that their accreditation had just been suspended for 72 hours.Slow InternetThe authorities have also targeted the Internet in an attempt to extend their control to the new media. News websites that were likely to criticise Ahmadinejad’s victory, including around 10 opposition websites, were pre-emptively censored on 11 June, the eve of the election. Since then, every effort has been made to prevent news and information about the regime’s opponents circulating online.This policy is continuing. Internet connections were slowed right down or blocked altogether in Tehran, Isfahan and Shiraz on the eve of opposition demonstrations that were announced in advance, such as those on 4 November and 7 December. The slow-down began earlier than usual before the latest protests on 7 December. Internet connections became very slow on 5 December, making it impossible to browse or send emails. Gmail and Yahoo welcome pages no longer displayed. “I wanted to send emails but even if the Gmail welcome page displayed, the ‘Send’ button did not,” one Iranian told Reporters Without Borders, referring to his Internet connection on 7 December.With the help of Internet Service Providers, the welcome pages of some news websites such as Balatarin, one of the strongholds of the protest movement, now redirect visitors to pages offering government propaganda. YouTube and Facebook are hard to access and the use of proxies is complicated by the slowness of connections.The mobile phone network is also being jammed. The authorities above all want to prevent the transmission and circulation of video that has been filmed on mobile phones. Several people were arrested on 7 December when they were seen using their mobile phones to film the demonstrations and the police response. Several bloggers have also been arrested since 4 December.Iran, which is on the Reporters Without Borders list of “Enemies of the Internet,” has been deploying a very sophisticated system of Internet filtering and monitoring, especially in recent months. The country’s main ISPs depend on the Telecommunication Company of Iran (TCI), a company recently acquired by the Revolutionary Guards, who do not hesitate to flout international treaties and Iran’s undertakings to respect the free flow of information.Unlimited impunityAlireza Eftekhari, 29, who had worked for a newspaper for five years, until last year, died on 15 June, apparently as a result of a cerebral attack after being beaten. His family was not given the body until 13 July and the exact circumstances of his death are still unknown. His name joins the long list of journalists who have been murdered in Iran. An investigation is needed to know exactly how he came to die.Those responsible for the deaths of four other journalists – Majid Charif, Mohamad Mokhtari, Mohamad Jafar Pouyandeh and Pirouz Davani – and Zahra Kazemi, a photographer with Iranian and Canadian dual nationality, must also be held accountable for their actions, and the young blogger Omidreza Mirsayafi’s death in detention must also be investigated.Biggest exodus since 1979 revolutionThe list of journalists getting legal and humanitarian assistance from Reporters Without Borders after fleeing the country gets longer by the day. More than 50 journalists have left since the start of the crackdown six months ago in what is the biggest exodus since the 1979 revolution. Describing media as “means used in an attempt to overthrow the state,” the regime is ridding itself of these unwanted witnesses by jailing them or getting them to flee.Photographers, cameramen, bloggers and reporters for now closed newspapers – all are being accused of “acting against national security.” The luckiest are able to fly to Europe or the United States, but most have to expose themselves to great danger by fleeing across Iran’s land borders with the help of smugglers. In the countries where they seek refuge – Turkey, Iraq or even Afghanistan – they are exposed to more harassment and police surveillance. The provisions of the 1951 Geneva Convention are ill-suited for such an emergency. European countries, in particular, must open their doors to these journalists and support free expression in Iran.In view of the scale of this exodus, Reporters Without Borders is launching an appeal for financial support for these journalists and bloggers, who find themselves utterly destitute as they search for a safe refuge. Your donations will help to pay for their air tickets and other forms of travel, and for food, lodging and medical care. February 25, 2021 Find out more Follow the news on Iran to go further March 18, 2021 Find out morecenter_img News December 12, 2009 – Updated on January 20, 2016 Iran’s six-month-old crackdown on media and Internet Call for Iranian New Year pardons for Iran’s 21 imprisoned journalists IranMiddle East – North Africa Iran: Press freedom violations recounted in real time January 2020 News News After Hengameh Shahidi’s pardon, RSF asks Supreme Leader to free all imprisoned journalists Organisation last_img read more