RSF launches new Media Help Desk to support Iranian journalists at risk

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has launched a new Iran Media Help Desk, in collaboration with Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Dr Shirin Ebadi, in response to the rapid deterioration of press freedom in the country.

The situation for journalists has deteriorated substantially since the death of Mahsa Amini on 16 September while in the custody of Iran’s “moral” police, RSF said on its website.

The new help desk, which was launched on Friday, will place immediate emphasis on providing digital security support to journalists and media facing risks for reporting on events in the country.

Just three days after the launch of this project, two British-Iranian journalists working in the UK for an independent Farsi-language TV channel received “credible” death threats from Iran’s security forces.

Volant Media, the London-based broadcaster of Iran International TV channel, said in a statement on Monday that two of its journalists have received “death threats from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps”, calling this a “dangerous escalation” of attempts to suppress independent media.

“These are state-sponsored threats to journalists in the UK,” a spokesman for Volant Media said.

The Revolutionary Guards “cannot be allowed to silence a free press in the UK”, he added.

AFP reported the channel has been covering the anti-regime protests in Iran following the death of Mahsa Amini for allegedly breaching strict dress rules for women.

Volant Media meanwhile said that two journalists received formal “warnings of credible threats to their lives” and those of their families, from London’s Metropolitan Police.

The media outlet said the police force had also notified other journalists of threats.

This comes after RSF stated that Iranian journalists are courageously reporting on developments in an increasingly hostile and complex environment, despite the great risks to themselves.

The organization said it is seeking to help circumvent those risks by providing journalists and media with the tools and support needed to do their jobs as safely as possible.

“Their ability to continue reporting is crucial to informing the Iranian and international public, and we hope this support helps offer them some protection and minimizes disruption to their work, RSF stated on their website.

According to RSF, with full Farsi-language capacity, the Iran Media Help Desk will provide digital security support to journalists at risk, including the rapid provision of VPNs, and will help media outlets circumvent censorship by creating mirror sites through RSF’s Collateral Freedom project.

“Through the Help Desk, RSF will provide emergency grants to Iranian media inside and outside of the country, and will develop further materials for publication on the Farsi-language version of its website,” the organization stated.

Iran is ranked 178 out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2022 World Press Freedom Index. RSF reports that 48 journalists are currently in prison in Iran.

Crackdown on Foreign Media

Following the widespread protests and unrest in the past month in Iran, the Iranian government has also tightened its crackdown on international media outlets.

On October 26, the Persian versions of German broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW) and Radio France Internationale (RFI) were subjected to visa bans and the confiscation of their property and assets in Iran. However, for now, these sanctions on the two media outlets in Iran have little impact, as their respective local offices have been closed since 2009.

The Editors-in-Chief of the BILD newspaper in Germany, Johannes Boie and Alexandra Würzbach, have also been personally named in the sanctions list. The news followed previously announced sanctions to media outlets based in the United Kingdom, including BBC Persian, Iran International and their parent company Volant Media, and media conglomerates, Global Media and DMA Media.