International broadcasters are increasingly concerned about their ability to reach audiences in Iran as the authorities there crack down on journalists working for foreign media outlets and hamper access to the Internet, the president of RFE/RL said in an interview with its Persian-language service, Radio Farda.
“We are very concerned about the targeting of our journalists here at Farda,” RFE/RL President Jamie Fly. “Our colleagues in VOA Persian, the BBC, Deutsche Welle, and other international broadcasters…are [also] facing this situation.”
Fly’s comments come in the wake of sometimes-violent mass protests across Iran following a government decision to raise gasoline prices. During the protests, Tehran shut down access to the Internet for several days.
“I think some of it is probably just a function of how fragile the regime feels that the situation is,” Fly said. “A reaction to the protests, a moment of crisis, this sense that they need to clamp down.”
“The thing we are watching very closely is — is this just a recent development related to the protests, this uptick in pressure, or is this the new normal?” Fly said. “Is this the way that the regime is going to go after those brave Iranians who are trying to bring fact to the Iranian people?”
He said RFE/RL is part of the Open Technology Fund, which is funded by the U.S. Agency for Global Media and the U.S. Congress, in order to develop “innovative solutions” for reaching audiences in countries where the governments are actively restricting access to the Internet.
“It’s not the sort of problem that is just facing the Iranian people,” Fly said. “It’s facing those in Russia, China, and elsewhere.”
“We will be working very closely [with the Open Technology Fund] to make sure that we can use the tools that they develop to help get our news and information into Iran, whatever the regime does,” he said.