Iranian authorities censor media ahead of presidential elections

Expression

As previously reported on the Monitor, the Iranian authorities have intensified the crackdown on freedom of expression ahead of the presidential elections. According to Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the social media video app Instagram Live has been blocked since 28th April 2017 - when the election campaign officially began - and on 23rd April, Prosecutor General Mohammad Jafar Montazeri announced that Telegram’s new voice-call option would be blocked in Iran because “the intelligence agencies cannot monitor it”.

Currently, 28 journalists and citizen journalists are in detention and Iran is considered “one of the world’s five biggest prisons for the media”. According to RSF, at least eight women journalists are in prison; two of them have serious health concerns and are being denied medical treatment.

Association

In a statement on 1st April 2017, the Gulf Centre for Human Rights reiterated that the Iranian government continues to target human rights defenders who face arrest, detention and travel bans. Dr. Abdolfattah Soltani, a prominent human rights lawyer and co-founder of the Defenders of Human Rights Centre, has been held for more than five years in the notorious Evin prison, where the appalling conditions exacerbate his pre-existing health conditions. In 2012, he was sentenced to 13 years in prison and an additional 20-year ban from practising law on charges of “spreading propaganda against the system” and “founding an illegal group”. The authorities have repeatedly refused to authorise medical leave or his transfer to a hospital, despite his doctor’s recommendations.

Human rights lawyer, Nasrin Sotoudeh, and human rights defender, lawyer and writer, Emadeddin Baghi, are banned from leaving the country. Sotoudeh was released in September 2013, having spent over three years in prison, though she was initially sentenced to eleven years in prison, barred from practising law and forbidden from leaving the country for 20 years. Her prosecution and continued harassment from the authorities are directly connected to her work as a lawyer representing human rights defenders and young prisoners sentenced to death. Baghi is founder of the Society for the Defence of Prisoners’ Rights and laureate of the 2009 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders. He has advocated for the peaceful improvement of human rights since the 1980s. He has spent several years in prison, including in December 2009, when he was detained during a wave of arrests and spent five months in solitary confinement. Although he has been released, a travel ban remains in place and his fundamental right to freedom of movement continues to be denied.

Peaceful Assembly

According to information from the Centre for Human Rights in Iran, prior to International Labour Day on 1st May 2017, peaceful protests were prevented and trade union activists were detained. On 26th April 2017, six workers were arrested at the Haft Tappeh sugar cane plant and summoned to a court in Dezful (Khuzestan Province) on charges of “propaganda against the state”. On 1st May 2017, police reportedly blocked workers from gathering in front of the parliament building.