Iran Not Living Up to Promise of Greater Freedoms

Freedom House strongly condemns renewed efforts by Iranian authorities to suppress online freedom of information, and calls on the government of Hassan Rouhani to fulfill its campaign promise of greater social and political freedoms.

Days after Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif shook hands with his Western counterparts in Switzerland to seal an interim agreement on Iran’s nuclear program, a new wave of arrests by the Iranian Ministry of Interior (MOI), and the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp. (IRGC) – a branch of Iran’s military intended to protect the country’s Islamic system – has swept Iran.

At least 24 people were arrested on December 3 and 4. On December 3, in two separate incidents, authorities detained a popular underground musician and at least seven employees of a technology website. Amir Tataloo, an Iranian rapper, was arrested by the MOI’s security services for allegedly ‘cooperating with foreign-based satellite television channels.’ Tataloo was released on bail on December 5, but it is unclear whether he has been charged with an offense. The IRGC arrested seven editors and technical staff members of Narenji, a Persian-language technology website, for unknown reasons and they are being held in an unknown location.

On December 4, the official website of the Iranian province of Kerman’s judiciary confirmed the arrest of another 16 activists for allegedly “having contact with, and receiving financial assistance from, foreign media outlets that aim to undermine the Islamic regime, in order to produce online content that helps educate citizen-journalists.” 

These are not the first arrests in Iran for online speech. On November 3, 2012, Sattar Beheshti, an Iranian blogger detained by the FATA (Iranian Cyber-Police) for posting criticism of the Iranian government on Facebook, was found dead in his jail cell with bruises on his body. On December 3, 2013, a Tehran court ruled government officials were not guilty of his murder. Ghiti Pourfazel, the Beheshti family lawyer, said the family had been pressed by the judiciary to accept the indictment they had issued classifying his death as “quasi-intentional,” or “involuntary homicide.

Freedom House calls on the Iranian regime to respect fundamental freedoms, to end repression of civil society and the press, and to release all prisoners of conscience still detained in Iran. As negotiations continue over Iran’s nuclear program, Freedom House urges the international community to remain vigilant of the government’s, on-going human rights violations.

Learn more:
Freedom in the World 2013: Iran
Freedom of the Press 2013: Iran
Freedom on the Net 2013: Iran
Blog: Freedom at Issue

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