Today is World Press Freedom Day 2013. Last year to mark this day we spoke with a series of activists and journalists to get a sense of the risks facing journalists in Iran. The result was this video:
Sadly, not much has changed in the past year. In fact, it may be worse. Just as the seasons change, one can almost predict when regime authorities will crackdown on those seeking to shed light on day-to-day life in Iran. With elections a mere six weeks away, now is as popular a time as any to throw reporters, writers, and bloggers in prison. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists now is as dangerous a time as any:
The latest wave of arrests began on January 27, what is now called “Black Sunday,” when authorities detained at least 14 journalists affiliated with reformist news outlets. In all, at least 19, including Rouh, have been detained in the past five weeks. At least five are still being held, along with dozens of other journalists who have been held for months or years.
Two weeks ago, the Iranian Intelligence Ministry threatened even more arrests in a claiming the journalists were part of a spy ring affiliated with the BBC. The Iranian government has frequently made such baseless accusations as an excuse for repressing local dissidents. Iranian human rights groups fear that some of the journalists have been forced to give false confessions as part of the spy investigation.
Iran has maintained a revolving-door policy for imprisoning journalists, freeing some detainees on furloughs even as new arrests are made. In its December 2012 prison census, CPJ found that Iran was the world’s second-worst jailer of journalists, with 45 journalists imprisoned in reprisal for their work. The threat of imprisonment has led scores of Iranian journalists to flee into exile in recent years.
Let’s hope that come World Press Freedom Day 2014, no journalist is imprisoned in Iran.