As Ebrahim Raisi, the President of the Iranian regime, publicly declared the assurance of freedom of expression and press, the reality on the ground paints a starkly different picture. This proclamation, made on August 17 to coincide with Journalist’s Day in Iran, contrasts sharply with the harsh truth that numerous journalists in the country remain behind bars or are entangled in legal battles.

Despite Raisi’s assertion, the Iranian press landscape remains marred by the suppression of dissenting voices. A multitude of journalists find themselves in the clutches of incarceration, facing charges, or enduring oppressive legal proceedings. The very essence of freedom of the press seems to be at odds with the current state of media affairs in the nation.

In a perplexing twist, Raisi extended gratitude towards those journalists who are striving to counter what he referred to as the “news and media flow of the enemy.” He implied that this act was tantamount to engaging in a media war, emphasizing the concept of cognitive warfare. However, this acknowledgment rings hollow in the context of the stifling atmosphere that many journalists in Iran are experiencing.

Against this backdrop, Maryam Shokrani, the economic secretary of Sharq newspaper, questioned the significance of celebrating Journalist’s Day when the very pen wielded by journalists is suffocating. In a poignant tweet, she inquired, “What is the meaning of a journalist’s day when the space has been ceded to government and corrupt bulletin writers? Every journalist, the voice of their nation, is subjected to pressure. Is this the path you have chosen?”

Akbar Montajabi, the head of the board of directors of the Journalists Guild of Tehran Province, has exposed a distressing reality that casts a shadow over claims of press freedom in Iran. Montajabi’s announcement that “more than 100 journalists” were arrested in the past year reveals a deeply troubling trend, signaling a significant escalation in the suppression of journalistic voices.

This unprecedented number of arrests, as revealed by Montajabi in his statement published in Ham-Mihan newspaper, signifies a somber milestone in Iran’s journalistic landscape. Far from the promises of an open space for expression, the current situation paints a vastly different picture—one where the ‘black era of journalism’ persists despite official assertions to the contrary.

In a chilling illustration of the Iranian regime’s true stance on press freedom, Elahe Mohammadi, a reporter for Ham-Mihan newspaper, languishes in custody as her fate hangs in the balance. Her arrest stems from her coverage of the tragic events surrounding Mahsa Amini’s death, a poignant reminder that even the act of reporting can incur the wrath of authorities.

The ominous shadow cast by Mohammadi’s imprisonment is a stark testament to the uphill battle that journalists face in Iran. The ordeal faced by this reporter echoes the plight of numerous other individuals who have been detained, their voices stifled under the weight of suppression.

Sharq newspaper also draws attention to the grim reality confronting journalists within the country. The publication has meticulously compiled a comprehensive list of names—reporters, journalists, and photographers—each representing a life upended by arrest, casting a chilling spotlight on the sweeping crackdown on media professionals since the eruption of protests following Mahsa Amini’s tragic death.

On September 23, 2022, the home of Nilufar Hamedi was invaded, leading to her arrest. Just a week later, Elahe Mohammadi also faced the same fate, torn from her home and detained, casting a shadow of uncertainty over their lives.

However, in a perplexing turn of events, Masoud Setayeshi, the spokesperson of the regime’s judiciary, held a press conference recently to assert that the arrests of Hamedi and Mohammadi were not rooted in their involvement in the journalistic profession or their reporting on the tragic death of Mahsa Amini. Rather, he attributed their detention to alleged connections with the United States.

In a thought-provoking piece on the front page of Sazandegi newspaper, an article under the title ‘We Are Accused!’ delves into the mounting pressures that journalists in Iran grapple with daily.

Authored by Faezeh Momeni, the article dissects the harsh reality where journalists find themselves facing accusations and legal repercussions for their journalistic pursuits. Momeni’s words echo the troubling truth: “If a journalist publishes news of corruption, they become the prime target for arrest. If a journalist reports on an unjust killing, they find themselves in the crosshairs of prosecution, even before the alleged criminals.”

In the media landscape of Iran, being a journalist comes with a distinct set of challenges, where their role is often undermined, and their efforts to expose truth are met with resistance. Momeni’s words encapsulate this struggle, painting a stark picture of the journalist’s predicament: “A journalist is nothing in Iran and finds no safe haven. Except when an incident occurs, and the journalist must raise their voice – not to unveil the broader aspects of the story, but to ensure that additional details are not divulged, lest they spend a lifetime confined within the dark depths of a dungeon.”

However, even in the face of this restrictive environment, a ray of hope has emerged as independent currents have harnessed new tools, such as podcasts and social networks, to navigate the landscape of investigative and critical journalism.

This development has given rise to a fresh spectrum of opposition journalists who have managed to break free from the shackles of tightly controlled newspapers, giving voice to alternative viewpoints and perspectives. These intrepid journalists have leveraged the power of digital platforms to reach audiences far and wide, transcending the boundaries that the regime has sought to impose on traditional media outlets.

The latest report from Reporters Without Borders places Iran at a staggering 177th out of 180 countries, painting a bleak picture of the state of media freedom within the nation. This dire ranking positions Iran in the company of only three countries – Vietnam, China, and North Korea – where the situation is deemed even worse.

The report’s findings shed light on the immense challenges faced by journalists and media practitioners in Iran. As the Islamic Republic tightens its grip on information dissemination, journalists have found themselves operating in an increasingly hostile environment. Censorship, intimidation, and outright repression have become commonplace tactics used to stifle dissenting voices and control the narrative.