Human rights monitors are deploring the continuing crackdown on freedom of expression in Iran.
The Center for Human Rights in Iran reports that formerly imprisoned photo-journalist Asal Esmailzadeh was suddenly arrested without charge on June 19, when she accompanied her husband Saeed Seif to the Culture and Media Court in Tehran. Seif is editor-in chief of the Didban news website, where Esmailzadeh works as well. Both husband and wife were volunteers on President Hassan Rouhani’s media team during the recent presidential campaign.
The press freedom organization Reporters Without Borders also reported on Esmailzadeh’s arrest. Seif tweeted that his wife was arrested to put pressure on him to make false statements about President Rouhani and ministers in his government.
Reporters Without Borders also condemned the overall increase in Internet censorship and harassment of citizen-journalists in Iran. According to its tally, 94 internet users, mainly users of the instant messaging service Telegram, and 12 Journalists remain in prison since the start 2017. In most cases, journalists and citizen-journalists arrested by the regime are charged with immoral acts or cybercrimes.
This includes three citizen-journalists arrested last year for content they had posted on Telegram. In April, Mohammad Mohajer, Alireza Tavakoli, and Mohammad Mehdi Zaman Zadeh were given a 12-year sentence for insulting Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and the Islamic Republic’s founder Ruhollah Khomeini.
In addition, some 173,000 Telegram accounts have been blocked by the government, under the guise of protecting the public from immoral content.
The U.S. believes that freedom of expression is a fundamental human right, and that a free press is a key component of democratic governance. Through sanctions and other means, including by shining a spotlight on the Iranian government’s human rights abuses, the United States, as Acting U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Virginia Bennett has said, “will continue to apply pressure on Iran to protect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of the Iranian people.”