Iran has jailed award-winning journalist Jila Baniyaghoob for one year. Her alleged crime: writing “propaganda” against the Islamic regime (i.e. reporting on last year’s disputed election results and subsequent protests). The conditions for imprisoned journalists in Iran are rarely comfortable. But more dramatic than a prison sentence, is the other aspect of this brave woman’s punishment: she has been banned from writing for 30 years. The nature of the punishment reveals how threatened Iran is by her reporting. It looks like an attempt to break her. I suspect it will have the opposite effect.
Every state sets some limits on what can be said or written. But to silence an individual’s voice entirely is an attack on the very notion of free expression.
As well as campaigning for an immediate lift on this sentence and ban, let’s make sure that one side effect is that Jila Baniyaghoob’s writing is read by many more people than would otherwise have read it and that her bravery is celebrated. The severity and crudity of the Iranian gagging measures suggest she has something very important to say.