The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has joined its affiliate, the Association of Iranian Journalists (AoIJ), in condemning the arrest of three journalists in just one week ahead of the presidential election in May.
The recent arrest of journalists Morad Saghafi, Hengameh Shahidi and Ehsan Mazandarani was the latest in a major crackdown on media in the lead up to the presidential election, scheduled for 19 May.
The AoIJ reported that well-known journalist and owner of Goftegoo magazine Morad Saghafi was arrested on 15 March in his house. The journalist was allowed just one phone call and told his family that he didn’t know the likely duration of his detention. No reason was given for the arrest and so far there are no official charges against the reporter, according to the union.
In addition, female journalist Hengameh Shahidi was also arrested on 9 March in Mashhad city by the Prosecutor’s Office while journalist Ehsan Mazandarani was beaten and arrested on 12 March by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ intelligence officers after raiding his house, his wife told the union. Shahidi suffers from a severe heart condition, her lawyer told the AoIJ.
As part of the ongoing media crackdown, prosecutors also arrested around 10 group administrators of the Telegram mobile application - similar to WhatsApp or Viber - which is used by around a quarter of the Iranians, according to reports, to share information and which has so far eluded the authorities’ control. The whereabouts of these group administrators remains unknown and as a result, their news and political channels in the application have been closed or renamed.
The IFJ says the current measures against press freedom in Iran are a reminder of the situation in 2009 where the authorities launched an all-out war on journalism, arresting scores of journalists and blocking many websites following the controversial election of former President Ahmadinejad which sparked political unrest in the country.
“We strongly condemn the arrest of our colleagues in Iran and the harassment of citizens sharing information or expressing their views on social platforms,“ said IFJ General Secretary, Anthony Bellanger. “Sadly, this has become routine at election times when the authorities resort to silencing public debate. Yet, freedom of expression is the keystone in any democratic system and journalists should be able to report without fear of intimidation, especially ahead of any election, so that citizens have access to all kinds of information sources.”