Threats, interrogations and arrests: some of the consequences of practicing free speech in Iran

Threats, interrogations and arrests: some of the consequences of practicing free speech in Iran - Protection

Reports emerged this week indicating that around 50 students and political activist were threatened by Iranian intelligence police and interrogated, some under the charge of “propaganda against the state”. In the reports it is mentioned that these persons were first summoned by a phone call. Those detained were then required to “post bail or provide a warranty to secure their release.” On twitter Persian Banoo added more to the story: It seems that the activists were further told that if they spoke about their summons or interrogations they would face harsher sentences. In other cases the families of the activists were also called with threats forcing them to accept false charges against their loved ones. As usual, seeing as the new trend is to keep targeted political activists or journalists incommunicado, those summoned were then told not to contact anyone about the occurrences – followed by the usual threats. Persian Banoo also added that some of those targeted were supporters of President Rouhani with others having taken part in his presidential campaigns.  More information is yet to be gathered.

The number of journalist and activists arrested and imprisoned has soared and it has not gone unnoticed. Ahmed Rasheed reports on the alarming issue where a number of human rights experts at the UN have given strong statements against these arrests and harassments that are both in contrary to international law and the Iranian constitution. IranWire has taken up the task to create profiles for some of the journalists that have been branded as criminals. These include: Parisa Kakaei, Fariba Pahzouh, Naeimeh Doostdar, Mehdi Zaboli, Jila Baniyaghoob and Saba Azarpeik . All profiles have the same surreal tagline, “Crime: Journalism”.

Jon Stewart has also created his debut film, Rosewater, about the harrowing story of journalist Maziar Bahari, who was imprisoned for 118 days on charges of espionage after the 2009 election. Bahari’s (played by Gael Garcia Bernal) ordeal brings to the big screen the dangers brave journalists face in Iran on the mission to report the truth. One striking section of the trailer shows the turning point for Bahari when a protester is irritated by Bahari’s refusal and hesitation to film the protests: “you have a real weapon and you choose not to use it”.

Reporting is indeed seen as a dangerous weapon in Iran, for a regime that is truly desperate to maintain the status quo. This somber truth cannot continue. Freedom of expression is fundamental for the fulfilment of basic rights; the experts at the UN remind Iran that “Freedom of expression and opinion is necessary for the realization of all human rights, and it is a right reserved for all individuals, even if that individual expresses an opinion with which the Government disagrees.” These arrests are unacceptable and all those arrested for simply expressing an opinion must be released unconditionally. Iran must recognise that a fundamental aspect of freedom of expression is the respect of expression that it does not agree with and not the cultivation of one narrow point of view through threats and intimidation.

Image source: