Expressing concern over the detention, prosecution and intimidation of journalists and bloggers in Iran before the upcoming parliamentary elections, United Nations human rights experts today called on the Government to stop “silencing dissenting voices” and to stand by its international obligation on freedom of expression.
“The Government of Iran should not silence critical or dissenting voices under the guise of vague and unsubstantiated national security concerns,” Ahmed Shaheed, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, said in a news release.
Iran has international obligations, he stressed, to allow and protect the right to a free press and access to information, as a member of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
“Freedom of expression is central to guarantee open, free and fair political processes,” David Kaye, the Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression, echoed in a similar vein, underscoring that “democratic processes are unsustainable if media workers and activists have no safety to perform their vital role.”
Both human rights experts further warned that arrests and prosecution of journalists not only affect their free operation in the country, but also make public participation in any electoral process impossible. However, this concern had been raised before the last elections in Iran.
The Iranian government should timely guarantee “a greater space for free exchange of ideas in the run-up to elections,” urged Mr. Kaye.
Iran has one of the highest numbers of journalists and activists in detention in the world. According to figures from April 2015, at least 45 were being held for their peaceful activities. On 2 November, five journalists were arrested by plainclothes of the Revolutionary Guard.