Journalists Will Be Charged with “Crimes” if Coverage Diverges from Official Line
Officials Expected Protests, Dictated Instructions to Media Before Price Hike Was Announced
November 25, 2019—While Iran is still reeling from the recent protests that have left scores injured, more than a hundred dead, and thousands arrested, the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) has learned that two main government ministries have silenced the domestic media by issuing directives dictating coverage of the unrest, in a blatant violation of freedom of the press. Intelligence ministry officials have also threatened journalists that they will be charged with “crimes” if their reporting of events does not hew to the official narrative of events.
Moreover, contrary to the widespread view that the government was caught off guard by the protests, CHRI has learned from an informed source who requested anonymity for security reasons that officials anticipated there would be unrest after the planned announcement of the gasoline price hikes. According to the source, state officials met with media publishers to instruct them on coverage of the expected unrest before the price hikes were announced to the public.
CHRI has confirmed the above account with two other journalists who had detailed and reliable knowledge of the meetings.
“It is now clear, the state’s preemptive directive to the media to censor coverage of the protests, the subsequent news cut-off and internet shutdown, and the violence exacted against the protestors all went hand-in-hand,” said Hadi Ghaemi, CHRI executive director.
“This was a calculated crushing of peaceful dissent.”
CHRI condemns this flagrant violation of freedom of the press, and calls upon the Iranian government to withdraw its directive dictating coverage of the protests and allow full and independent reporting of domestic news and events.
Journalists Told How to Cover the Price Hike Before It Was Announced
In an interview with CHRI, a journalist with detailed knowledge of these events, stated: “Before the fuel price hike was announced and the protests started, Supreme National Security Council officials briefed newspaper publishers on two occasions.”
“The meetings were one-way affairs; no discussion was allowed. The officials spoke about the possibility of an increase in the price of gasoline and the potential for protests in some regions and they advised that the media should cover the issues within the framework of state policies,” he added.
“The fact that the government expected protests to happen has huge implications for the state’s use of lethal force against the protestors,” said Hadi Ghaemi. “The state’s violence was not a product of unanticipated chaos but rather a planned state decision to violently and ruthlessly crush the unrest,” Ghaemi added.
Iran Briefing | News Press Focus on Human Rights Violation by IRGC, Iran Human Rights