FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Washington, DC – NIAC condemns the Iranian government’s recent arrests of at least 14 journalists in Tehran, an act that demonstrates the government’s continued brazen disregard for freedom of expression. This marks the latest in a long history of harassment and detainment of journalists by Iran’s rulers. NIAC repeats its call on the Iranian authorities to free all political prisoners and prisoners of conscience, to adhere to their human rights obligations, and to grant the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran full access to the country.
Accused by authorities of cooperating with “anti-revolutionary” foreign news media, the arrest of these mostly pro-reform journalists comes in an atmosphere of heightened pressure and intimidation on journalists in the run up to the June presidential elections. The raids were directed against the editorial rooms of several Tehran-based newspapers; including Bahar, Shargh, Arman, Etemad, and Aseman Weekly. In addition to the arrests, the offices and homes of some journalists were searched and videotaped and phones and press permits were also confiscated.
This assault on free press and human rights marks the continuation of a trend in which prominent lawyers and dissident bloggers have systematically been intimidated and detained. The implications of this vast clampdown highlight an effort on behalf of the Iranian government to consolidate power and stifle any dissident voice ahead of the June presidential election. As Sarah Leah Whitson, the Middle East Director of Human Rights Watch, has said, “the lesson that free and fair elections, not increasing repression, will lead to legitimacy and long-term stability seems to be lost on them.” Indeed, authorities have not yet allowed opposition parties and candidates associated with the reformist movement to field candidates for the upcoming presidential elections.
Unfortunately this has not been the only disturbing story of arrest and crackdown that has come out of Iran in the past week. An Iranian-American Pastor, Saeed Abedini, has recently been sentenced to 8 years in prison by an Iranian judge in Iran’s Revolutionary Court. NIAC categorically condemns the violation of freedom of conscience and religion in Iran and calls for Mr. Abedini’s human rights to be recognized by Iranian authorities.