Press freedom in Iran: what is the reality of reporting within the Islamic Republic today?
On 14 May 2014, the European Foundation for Democracy and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty hosted a closed-door policy briefing on press freedom in Iran and the realities faced by the media on the ground. The guest speakers were Benyamin Sadr, Mohammad Reza Yazdanpanah and Armand Mostofi; three Iranian Journalists, two of whom are recipients of 2013 –2014 Vaclav Havel Fellowship. Both relocated to Prague in July 2013 to take up the Fellowship with Radio Farda, RFE/RL’s Persian-language service. The third journalist is a Director of Radio Farda.
Freedom of the press in Iran continues to be subjected to significant restrictions, journalists are not free to report on many issues and government censorship of the media continues apace. As Iran negotiates with world powers on its nuclear programme to avail of the best opportunity for more than a decade to escape from increasingly hard-hitting economic and other sanctions, this opening to the West does not, it appears, necessarily extend to relaxing restrictions on journalists’ freedom to report. So what is the reality for journalists reporting on everyday life within the Islamic Republic today?
Benyamin Sadr fled Iran after the government launched a crackdown on the Green Movement, a loose coalition that emerged to advocate for free elections in 2009. In Iran, he worked for several news websites and newspapers, including the dailies “Hamshahri,” “Hayat e Nou” and “Entekhab.” He also contributed to the BBC’s Persian service and Euronews. Mr. Sadr has lived in France since 2010.
Mohammad Reza Yazdanpanah is a journalist and blogger who edited the website, “Mowj e Sabz” (“Green Wave”), which was associated with the Green Movement. He was arrested and imprisoned during the government crackdown that ensued that year and, after being released on bail, fled to France where he has lived since 2010. While in Iran, Mr. Yazdanpanah also reported for “Ham Mihan,” “Farhikhtegan,” “Sedaye Edalat,” “Shargh,” “Etemad” and other Iranian newspapers.
Armand Mostofi is Director of Radio Farda. He began his journalism career in Iran, working as a radio and television journalist for over 10 years both in Teheran and the regions. He emigrated to France after the Iranian revolution and resumed his journalism activities, working for several French outlets, including Radio France Internationale. During Mr. Mostofi's tenure, Radio Farda has expanded its programming, impact and audience reach.