Fri, 29 Sep 2023

Following the Wednesday beating of a journalist in Iran by the bodyguards of Hassan Khomeini, the grandson of the country's first supreme leader, Iranian reporters are saying that such violent harassment is par for the course with the poor state of media freedom in Iran.

The incident occurred on Wednesday at a ceremony at the headquarters of Iran's Ettela'at daily newspaper to commemorate its late director, Mahmoud Do'aei.

Amin Mehravar, a reporter with the Iranian Labour News Agency, or ILNA, went near Khomeini and former President Mohammad Khatami to take pictures, but he was forcibly removed by bodyguards.

Mehravar was reportedly subjected to physical and verbal abuse, ILNA said, and his phone and ID card were confiscated. Khomeini later apologized for the assault.

ILNA condemned the bodyguards' 'inappropriate action' as a brazen attack on press freedom.

This year, the press freedom group Reporters Without Borders ranked Iran 177th out of 180 countries in terms of press freedom.

Iran is also among the world's worst jailers of journalists, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, with dozens of journalists arrested during the crackdown on protests sparked by the death in police custody of Mahsa Amini in September 2022.

In a country with one of the worst press freedom records in the world, this incident did not surprise the nation's media community.

One Iranian reporter, who requested anonymity for safety reasons, told VOA Persian that journalists in Iran face 'systematic' harassment.

'This humiliation of people, journalists and celebrities is very painful,' the reporter said. 'The [Islamic Republic] regime's humiliating behavior with journalists and the media is not limited to suppression and censorship, and journalists face systematic online harassment, which generally occurs from organizations called the Cyber Army.

'It seems that one of the duties of the cyber gang is repressing journalists, humiliating and destroying them in social media,' the reporter said. 'We are facing a phenomenon in Iranian media where security institutions order media managers to expel journalists.'

The reporter compared this recent incident to the attack against journalist Faezeh Momeni in 2021. A protection agent broke her finger after she refused to delete interviews she had conducted with personnel at a vaccination center in Tehran, according to the site Iran News Wire.

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