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RSF Blasts 'Ridiculous' Iranian Bill Banning U.S., British Journalists And Media

A woman browses the front page of the Iranian newspaper Sharq featuring the 2020 U.S. election results at a newsstand in Tehran on November 8, 2020.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is urging the Iranian parliament to reject a bill that it says would "help further erode Iran's increasingly vulnerable press freedom" ahead of next month's presidential election.

In a statement on May 10, the Paris-based media-freedom watchdog says the proposed law would ban U.S. and British journalists from entering Iran and would ban the Iranian media from reporting anything published by the U.S. and British media.

Violations of the proposed law would be punishable by five to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to 360 million rials ($16,340).

"This proposed law is ridiculous as well as lacking any legitimacy," said Reza Moini, the head of RSF's Iran-Afghanistan desk.

"The media it targets are an integral part of the world in which we live and of which the Islamic republic is part, regardless of what it says," he added.

"Furthermore, the Persian-language sections of certain international media are the main sources of freely and independently reported news and information for Iranians."

The proposed law, submitted by 41 parliament members on April 18, says the two prohibitions are justified because the U.S. and British media and their journalists are responsible for "many actions against national interests and against the Islamic republic," according to RSF.

The group notes that the international media coverage of the June presidential poll "is unlikely to please the regime because it is clear that the electoral process is just a smokescreen for the future president's designation" by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Iran is ranked 174th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2021 World Press Freedom Index.

Upon arrival in Iran, foreign journalists are currently placed under "close surveillance" by the authorities and "their journalism is subjected to a form of censorship in which, if they fail to toe the official line, they can end up having to leave," RSF says.

Meanwhile, "Iranian journalists -- and sometimes their family members as well -- have for years been subjected to harassment, arrest, and long prisons sentences."