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 liberalisation 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 centre of the politics of attempted liberalisations 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 on August of 2009 during the street protests against his re-election. Some weeks before Saharkhiz and the head of the Association, Ali Mazroui, had been arrested.
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 institutionalise governmental domination over the press. To this day, the activity of the Association remains suspended.
Last January a member of the Parliament National Security Commission, Karimi Ghoddusi, said the Association of Journalists is illegal and ideologically close to the Green Movement that led the protests of 2009. For these reasons, he added, the ban on the organisation has to be kept.