A reformist journalist was detained in Iran this weekend on suspicion of plotting against the country’s clerics, the country’s official news agency announced on Sunday.
The reporter, Serajeddin Mirdamadi, follows about 35 other journalists currently behind bars in Iran. In fact, despite a more “moderate” government, it seems to be getting more and more difficult – not to mention dangerous – to be a journalist in Iran.
Earlier this month, World Press Freedom Day was marked around the world. In honor of the occasion, Vice’s John Beck reported that Iran has overtaken Turkey as the world’s “most prolific jailer of journalists.”
When “self-described moderate” Hassan Rouhani was elected as the country’s president, Beck wrote, Iranian journalists allowed themselves a slightly bigger measure of optimism. But in the months since Rouhani’s election, that optimism has faded in light of moves to shut down reformist newspapers – most recently, the moderate Ebtekar – for “spreading lies” and other accusations.
Ironically, Ebtekar was shut down for reporting on the Evin prison violence in which journalists were brutally attacked.
Commenting on the recent upsurge in attacks against the press, an Iranian political journalist living in France, told Vice that in Iran, “independent journalists are under constant summonses and threats” – a regime of fear maintained by “suppression of civil society with guns, police, and military force.”
In Iran, the reporters said, smear campaigns tarnish the reputations – “seditionist, immoral” (read: reformist, or critical) – of journalists; after trials lasting only a few minutes, they are sent to the “appalling” Ward 350 and subjected to torture of the body and the mind. Even leaving the country doesn’t help them, as in their absence, the government targets their families, threatening and detaining them.
“Anything can be taken as an insult,” another journalist told Vice. “It’s amazing how your writing is interpreted so as to get you in trouble.”