Foreign-based female journalists reporting on Iran face “increased and worrying levels” of online harassment and abuse, according to Article 19 and the Journalists Protection Committee.
“The growing trend of authorities and mobs harassing journalists outside the country is extremely worrying,” said Quinn McKew, executive director of the London-based company Article 19. “Iranian journalists exposed to online abuse not only see their jobs being affected, but it also has a huge impact on their lives.”
McKew called on the “international community,” which she counted as “technology companies,” to “do more to protect journalists around the world.”
In collaboration with the New York-based Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ), Article 19 interviewed journalists in March to investigate the “toxic and often violent space” around journalists covering Iran.
Article 19 cited smear campaigns and tactics to undermine the credibility of the victims, sometimes brought to life by people who presented themselves as “opposition activists” who presented their victims as “agents” or “propagandists” for “the regime” in Iran represented.
“Many of the women we spoke to described similar campaigns that appear to have been led by the Islamic Republic of Iran to delegitimize their critical coverage of Iranian institutions or the Iranian state.” a briefing published by the two rights organizations called.
Testimony in the briefing indicated that online attacks on female journalists were not limited to death Threats against them and their families but also contained a “clear sexualized and gender-specific pattern”.
In July, Iranian-American activist Masih Alinejad alleged that she was the victim of an alleged conspiracy by the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence quoted in a federal court indictment in New York. Alinejad, who has a high social media profile and a popular memoir, The Wind in My Hair, claimed she was kidnapped from her New York apartment and taken to Venezuela in a speedboat.
“Reporting on Iran, including from outside the country, can be dangerous for any journalist,” said Sherif Mansour, CPJ program coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa. âFor journalists in exile, the burden of fear for their lives is compounded by smear campaigns and relentless online abuse. The protection of law enforcement agencies and the support of social media platforms are crucial for them so that they can carry out their work with a certain sense of security. “
The International Union of Journalists last year condemned the “arbitrary raids” in Tehran, in which the material was carried out by journalists was allegedly confiscated. The two human rights organizations argued that while the harsh conditions for women journalists in Iran are not comparable, the risks for women journalists outside of Iran should be avoided.
The two organizations urged governments – including the United States, Canada and the European Union – to recognize the gravity of the problem and take specific measures to combat this online abuse and harassment.
Sixty-six journalists were killed around the world in 2020, with the highest total of 14 in Mexico, 10 in Afghanistan, nine in Pakistan, and eight in India.