PEN International is deeply concerned by the decision of the Iranian authorities to suspend the printing and distribution of newspapers.
A decree was issued on 30 March, citing concerns about the spread of coronavirus, and will remain in place until restrictions related to the pandemic are lifted.
'Freedom of information is a fundamental human right: now it is also a matter of public health. Lives will be lost if people cannot access news on the spread of the coronavirus. We call on the Iranian authorities to reconsider this decision, to uphold press freedom and to ensure the safety of journalists while reporting on the pandemic,' said Carles Torner, PEN International Executive Director.
A number of Iranian journalists have highlighted the effect this decision will have on their livelihoods and its potential to create an ‘information void.’
The decree comes amidst a crackdown on free expression in Iran.
The police force of Tehran recently created a ‘coronavirus defence base’ which monitors ‘misinformation and the spread of fear’ related to COVID-19. Iran’s Cyber Police have already arrested at least two individuals for ‘spreading false news about the outbreak.’
Similar bans on the printing and distribution of newspapers have been imposed in Yemen, Morocco, Oman and Jordan.