The Association of Iranian Journalists was founded in 1997 by a group of reformist journalists, when the election of the reformist President Mohammad Khatami opened a new era of partial liberalization of the press. Among the founders was Isa Saharkhiz, at that time also head of the Press Department at the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, the center of the politics of attempted liberalizations of those years. The Association is a member of the International Federation of Journalists and in 2008 it said it had 4,000 members.
After several episodes of harassment by the authorities during the presidency of the ultra-conservative President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Association was shut, in August 2009, during the street protests against the fraud presidential election. Some weeks before that, Isa Saharkhiz and a number of member journalists were arrested and imprisoned.
In June 2013, in his first news conference as president-elect, Hassan Rouhani pledged that he would do everything in his power for the Association to resume its activity. On March 2014 Ali Jannati, at that time minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance, announced the lifting of the ban. This, however, did not happen. In August 2014 President Rouhani announced that his administration was preparing a bill for the creation of a new guild of journalists. But the banned Association reacted, expressing “worry” for an initiative that could lead to an attempt to institutionalize governmental domination over the press. To this day, the activity of the Association remains suspended.
After Rouhani took office in 2013, efforts to reopen the office of the Association of Iranian Journalists failed due to objection from the Judiciary. Later, journalists made a new effort to form an association called the Tehran Journalists' Association. After obtaining a license from the Ministry of Labor and electing a board of directors, this association started its activities in February 2018, and has continued to this day.