UN rights experts stated [press release] Wednesday that authorities in Iran [JURIST backgrounder] should cease arresting, prosecuting and harassing journalists and online activists, and should provide a safe space for freedom of expression. UN Special Rapporteur on Iran Ahmen Shaheed [official website] made the statements to the press as Iran is preparing for parliamentary elections next year and the Iran intelligence and security officials have started to arrest journalists more frequently , signaling a crackdown on media freedom. Iran is currently one of the countries with highest detainment of journalists and online activists arrested for peaceful actions. According to the UN, the increase in the harassment and detainment of journalists and online activists is a concern with the upcoming election and the possible impact it will have in allowing individuals to freely express critiques of the election and politicians. Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression David Kaye [official profile] said:
Freedom of expression is central to guarantee open, free and fair political processes. Ultimately, democratic processes are unsustainable if media workers and activists have no safety to perform their vital role. … Participation in any electoral process is virtually impossible if the media and civil society are so frequently affected by arrests and prosecution. … The Iranian authorities should reverse this trend and must quickly ensure “a greater space for free exchange of ideas in the run-up to elections.
The UN experts urged the release of journalists that have been unlawfully detained.
The human rights conditions of journalist and others in Iran have continued to be an matter of concern for the UN and worldwide. The Iranian Revolutionary Court [BBC backgrounder] in October convicted [JURIST report] Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian [advocacy website], approximately two months after the end of his trial. Rezaian was accused of espionage [JURIST report] for allegedly collecting confidential information, handing it to hostile governments and acting against national security. The UN released a report in October stating that Iran’s human rights situation remains alarming despite the signing [JURIST reports] of the nuclear deal earlier this month.