"Iran, following its crackdown on dissent after the last elections, now has more journalists behind bars than any other nation."
Scores of Iranian journalists spent World Press Freedom Day, celebrated each year on May 3rd, languishing in prison. President Barack Obama noted in a statement marking the day that "Iran, following its crackdown on dissent after the last elections, now has more journalists behind bars than any other nation."
Amnesty International notes that some of the detained journalists have been sentenced to lengthy prison terms after being convicted in mass show trials; some have been held in solitary confinement for weeks without being charged or tried; some have been subjected to human rights violations, including torture. Other Iranian journalists have fled Iran for their own safety.
The Iranian government has also shut down multiple newspapers, as well as the office of the Association of Iranian Journalists. It has passed a "Cyber-Crimes Law" targeting bloggers, and given the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps an increased role in tracking dissenters. The regime has also reduced the number of foreign correspondents permitted in Iran and forbade Iranians to have any contact with foreign broadcasters like the BBC or the Voice of America.
On May 3rd, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a statement that a "free press is essential to an empowered citizenry, government accountability and responsible economic development. Wherever independent media are under threat, accountable governance and human freedom are undermined."
Iran ratified the Universal Declaration of Human Rights when it was presented to the United Nations sixty-one years ago. As Secretary Clinton says, "Article 19. . . .is as relevant in our globalized information age as it was when it was adopted over six decades ago: 'Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas regardless of frontiers.' The United States is committed, said Secretary Clinton, "to defend freedom of expression and the brave journalists who are persecuted for exercising it on the challenging new terrain of the 21st century."