Over 100 days after Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s election, Iran continues to crack down on the press and remains “one of the world’s biggest prisons for journalists and netizens” according to journalist advocacy group Reporters Without Borders.
The group said in a statement on Tuesday that it was “very disappointed by President Hassan Rouhani’s record on freedom of information,” noting that since Rouhani took office, at least 10 journalists have been arrested, 10 more have been sentenced to “a combined total of 72 years in prison,” and three newspapers have been shut down by the government.
“The only notable changes in the past 100 days have been the Twitter and Facebook accounts of the president and some of his ministers,” Reporters Without Borders said in the scathing assessment, adding that “it is easier to access porn sites [than] censored online content critical of the regime.”
Despite repeated promises to release political prisoners and loosen restrictions on speech during his campaign, around 50 journalists and free speech activists remain in prison and media figures continue to be targeted by the government, according to the advocacy group.
Recent arrests include Bahar reporter Ali Asghar Gharavi, who was accused of insulting Islamic texts, and Mostafa Faghihi, an editor at Entekhab who wrote about U.S.-Iranian relations. Three students—Said Leali, Amir Yari, and Mohammad Poladi—were reportedly arrested after writing critically about the government on Facebook.
Reporters Without Borders also named nine jailed journalists who it says have urgent medical conditions that are being ignored by authorities.
“[T]here has been no significant change in the inhumane treatment of prisoners of conscience in Iran, especially in Evin and Raja’i Shahr prisons,” wrote the group. “Many detainees are still denied medical treatment despite being physically and psychologically ravaged by their illnesses.”
Around 100 Iranians, primarily media figures and activists, were hit with cyber attacks over the past two months, Reporters Without Borders said.
One journalist told Reporters Without Borders that he was informed by Iranian authorities, “Don’t believe in any revolution. It was an election controlled by the regime. You voted and now it is over. You are still under surveillance and control. No critical articles, not even ones about art or history. And no meetings.”
Iran released one group of political prisoners in September, but some questioned the legitimacy of the gesture.
“The government announced that they had released political prisoners on amnesty but that is not true,” Iranian Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi told the Daily Beast earlier this month. “Those who were released had either come to a natural end of their sentence or had very little of it left.”
The highest-profile political prisoner who was released, student activist Majid Tavakoli, was later re-jailed, the Daily Beast reported.
Human rights groups also criticized Iran for a “surge” in executions in October.