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2022-10-28

Why arresting journalists is an attack on democracy

A month after the death of Mahsa Amini, people continue to protest against the Iranian authorities. They call for democracy and for the abolishment of the moral police. Iranian authorities have answered with violence. 

Among the many unjust responses from the regime are the arresting of several journalists. A report from the Committee To Protect Journalists shows that at least 40 journalists have been arrested by Iranian Security forces since the death of Mahsa Amini. And the assault on journalists is intensifying. The Iranian state’s attack on its own citizens and journalists drives the state further away from democratic principles. 

Journalism is one of the cornerstones of democracy. It was long believed that one cannot live without the other. Nowadays, we see that various forms of journalism exist in non-democratic countries. Some are aligned with the thoughts and ideas of the state. Those who dare to confront the state risk their lives to provide information to people. 

But a democracy still requires an independent, well-functioning press to function. Without independent journalists present to scrutinize governments, hold politicians accountable, and provide objective information, a country loses its transparency and freedom of speech. 

Iran is one of the least democratic countries in the world. For decades the state has oppressed its people, arresting and mistreating women on arbitrary reasonings regarding their clothes. People are fed up. Arresting journalists who report on the protests will not stop Iranian people from expressing their dismay for the oppressive regime. But it does show the regime's choice of prioritising power over its own people.

This is unfortunately not a problem only in Iran. In 132 out of 180 countries in the world, journalism is completely or partially blocked. On 21st September, at least eight journalists were arrested in Russia following Vladimir Putin’s speech on “partial mobilisation” for the illegal invasion of Ukraine. Worldwide, over 50 journalists have been killed so far in 2022, many being murdered due to their job. 

Attacks, especially those of non-lethal character, often come from authoritarian state leaders aiming to destroy citizen’s access to information. An attack on journalism by the state is an attack on democracy, as citizens are deprived of a chance to make free and informed opinions. 

The International Association for Democracy (IAD) calls for the arrested journalists to be released, so they can continue their work on a fair and democratic coverage of the ongoing protests in Iran. The people of Iran are speaking, let the media report what they say. 


Ane Mestvedthagen
Public Affairs Officer
International Association for Democracy