This short documentary provides a brief account of restrictions on the freedom of the press in Iran, particularly focusing on the period between the reform era, which began with the election of President Mohammad Khatami in 1997, and the present. The chain murders of 1990s, the banning of Salam newspaper in 1999, and mass closures of reformist newspapers by Tehran Prosecutor Saeed Mortazavi are among topics discussed in this film. The documentary also examines restrictions on the press during the presidencies of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hassan Rouhani, and explores how Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and the Iranian parliament have worked to cultivate a climate of fear in the domestic press in Iran. According to figures compiled by IHRDC, there are currently over fifty journalists and bloggers imprisoned in Iran.
Last month, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI), Javad Zarif, announced to the world that the IRI does not “jail people for their opinions”, adding that, “people who commit crimes…cannot hide behind being a journalist.” Weeks later, on Tuesday, May 26, the trial of Washington Post Tehran bureau chief Jason Rezaian commenced behind closed doors in Branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court of Tehran, a court known for issuing heavy sentences against political prisoners and prisoners of conscience with little to no supporting evidence. One of the charges against Rezaian, “disseminating propaganda against the state”, is presumably one of the crimes to which Zarif alluded. According to its definition in the IRI’s Islamic Penal Code, the charge can be applied against “[a]nyone who engages in any type of propaganda against the Islamic Republic of Iran or in support of opposition groups and associations.” This vaguely-defined charge has been employed in countless cases against journalists in recent years, yet neither Zarif nor any other official of the IRI has ever provided a coherent explanation of how its use does not infringe on the freedoms of expression and press.