iranintl – The Iranian Writers’ Association says combatting censorship, a significant tool of suppression, is crucial to safeguarding freedom of speech against government tyranny.
The statement, issued on the Day Against Censorship on December 4 by the long-banned Iranian Writers’ Association (IWA) on Facebook, asserts that censorship has been a decisive instrument over the past four decades to suppress writers, intellectuals, artists, filmmakers, and hinder disapproved social movements and cultural developments.
The IWA’s condemnation of censorship extends beyond books and written media to encompass other forms like satellite TV and the internet, enabling the regime to manipulate and mislead society, dismantle independent media, and obscure real information about its oppression, failures, and corruption.
The Iranian regime strictly controls internet access, frequently imposing blackouts during sensitive times, such as widespread protests, and has long restricted access to satellite TV through extensive jamming. The Internet censorship, which began in 2002 by blocking hundreds of websites, later extended to blocking social media platforms. Ten of million of Iranian resort to using VPNs to connect to messaging apps and blocked websites.
Toronto-based journalist and political analyst Jamshid Barzegar told Iran International that the statement, like the statement known as 134 Writers’ Declaration they issued in 1994, can be considered as one of IWA’s “historical statements”.
The 1994 statement marked the revival of IWA’s activities after a decade of suppression, condemning the extensive censorship imposed by the regime, demanding freedom of speech for all. Barzgar noted that the recent statement correctly identifies the violation of the right to freedom of speech as a major tool of suppression.
“They have rightly pinpointed the main flaw, the violation of the right to freedom of speech, as one of the major reasons for continuation of the cycle of tyranny [in the Islamic Republic],” Barzgar said.
Members of the association (Kanoon-e Nevisandegan-e Iran in Persian), which was banned two years after the Islamic Revolution of 1979, have been subjected to systematic harassment and persecution for decades.
The IWA named December 4 as Day Against Censorship thirteen years ago in honor of two of its members, Mohammad and Mokhtari Jafar, who were murdered by intelligence ministry agents in 1998 as part of a systematic plan to eliminate intellectuals, political figures, and dissidents.
Tens of dissident politicians, writers, activists, and even academics fell victim from 1988 to 1998 to these systematic murders that were meant to intimidate others into submission by the rulers of the Islamic Republic. The killings came to be known as Iran’s Chain Murders.
Iranian media, politicians and activists have extensively pointed out the similarity between the double murders of filmmaker Dariush Mehrjui and his wife in October this year and the Chain Murders of the 1990s, warning that similar elimination campaigns may have begun again.
In 2021, the American PEN Association awarded Baktash Abtin, Reza Khandan Mahabadi, and Keyvan Bajan with the Pen Freedom Award. According to PEN America’s 2021 Freedom to Write Index, Iran jailed the fourth-highest number of writers and public intellectuals in the world that year. Since then, arrests of writers and other artists have dramatically spiked.