Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is calling on the Iranian authorities to rescind their recent decision to ban a reformist daily that has criticized the country's economic policies and morality police.
Sazandegi newspaper was banned amid a brutal crackdown on five months of popular protests demanding fundamental economic, social and political reforms in the country, accompanied by a clampdown on the media in which dozens of journalists have been detained.
The Press Supervisory Board, an offshoot of the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, banned Sazandegi newspaper on February 20 after the daily allegedly committed "violations" including publishing "false content" and "disturbing public opinion.”
The accusations are routinely used to gag dissent in Iran.
Jonathan Dagher, the head of RSF’s Middle East desk, said in a statement on February 27 that the Press Supervision Council “has once again demonstrated that it is just a tool for controlling and persecuting journalists.”
“It is time for the Iranian authorities to accept that censoring news and information is not going to end the crisis in Iran. Sazandegi must be allowed to resume operating and informing the Iranian public without delay.”
The paper was founded by the reformist Executives of Construction Party and was first published in 2018. Often critical of the authorities, it was reported to have a daily circulation of about 8,000 copies.
Its closure came after Sazandegi ran a front-page story headlined “Meat Riots” about the government’s mishandling of escalating meat prices.
The daily has also published articles criticizing the Islamic Republic’s morality police and mocking a government-organized conference presenting “influential women” from all over the world.
The authorities have unleashed a bloody clampdown on the women-led protest movement triggered by the September death of a 22-year-old woman, Mahsa Amini, in the custody of morality police. Amini had been arrested for an alleged breach of the strict dress code for women.
Security forces have killed more than 520 people, including dozens of children, and detained over 19,000 others since the eruption of the protests, activists say. Following unlawful detentions and biased trials, the judiciary has handed down stiff sentences, including the death penalty, to protesters.
Known for its harsh Internet censorship, which includes banning thousands of websites, the Islamic Republic has to a large scale shut down the Internet for most of Iranians in an effort to prevent them from accessing and disseminating information online and from communicating safely.