Middle East

Iran must stop intimidating journalists, UN experts say

An Iranian woman walks past a wall covered with newspaper front pages during the 20th Exhibition of Press and News Agencies at the Imam Khomeini grand mosque in Tehran (13 November 2014) Image copyright AFP
Image caption The UN experts urged Iran to allow and protect the right to a free press

UN human rights experts have called on the authorities in Iran to stop intimidating journalists as the country prepares for elections early next year.

Ahmed Shaheed, the special rapporteur on Iran, expressed concern at what he said appeared to be a new crackdown on freedom of expression and the media.

The recent arrests of five journalists were particularly worrying, he said.

They have been accused of taking part in an "infiltration network linked to hostile Western governments".

The journalists - including Afarine Chitsaz, Ehssan Mazandarani, Saman Safarzai, and Issa Saharkhiz - were detained by plainclothes members of the Revolutionary Guards' intelligence units on 2 November.

More than a dozen other journalists and social media activists have also reportedly been summoned for interrogation by the Iranian authorities.

"The government of Iran should not silence critical or dissenting voices under the guise of vague and unsubstantiated national security concerns," Mr Shaheed said.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The UN experts urged Iran to release all journalists detained arbitrarily, including Jason Rezaian

Iran has international obligations to allow and protect the right to a free press and access to information, he stressed.

David Kaye, the UN special rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression, noted that the detention and harassment of journalists was increasing as February's parliamentary elections approached, in a repeat of the run-up to the 2013 polls.

"Public participation in any electoral process is virtually impossible if the media and civil society are so frequently affected by arrests and prosecution," Mr Kaye said.

The UN experts urged Iran to release all journalists who have been arbitrarily and unlawfully arrested for their peaceful exercise of fundamental rights, including the Iranian-American Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian.

Mr Rezaian, who has been detained for more than 15 months, was last month found guilty of espionage by a Revolutionary Court after a secret trial.

The Iranian authorities have provided no details on the exact nature of the conviction, which the Washington Post and the US government have denounced.

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