Iran’s human rights record, as the U.S. State Department’s most recent world-wide report noted, remains dismal, despite rhetorical changes from government officials who pledged to restore and expand freedoms for the Iranian people.
Among the violations the State Department cited were severe restrictions on civil liberties, including freedom of the press and expression; executions without due process; and politically motivated violence and repression.
In September, human rights monitors called attention to new incidents that are raising concern. On September 19, Sadra Mohaghegh, social affairs editor of the reformist Shargh newspaper, was reportedly arrested by security agents; his computer and phone were confiscated, supposedly on the grounds that he had a “relationship with counter-revolutionary media.”
On September 17, another journalist, Yashar Soltani, remained detained in Evin prison after he was not able to post bail for his release. According to the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, Mr. Soltani was arrested after complaints were brought against three news stories he published.
Meanwhile, prominent reformist journalist Issa Saharkhiz also remains in prison, though his sentence for the purported crime of “insulting the Supreme Leader” was recently reduced from three years to 21 months. Mr. Saharkhiz was part of the wave of journalist arrests that took place in November 2015 and included newspaper editor Ehsan Mazandarani, as well as newspaper columnist Afarin Chitsaz.
“Whether journalists are advocating for national political reform or reporting on a local land deal, they are not safe from Iranian prisons,” said the Committee to Protect Journalists’ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour. “We call on Iranian authorities to stop arbitrarily throwing journalists in jail and let the press do its job.”
President Barack Obama has said that all nations – including Iran – “are stronger and more successful when they uphold human rights:”
“A free press that can expose abuse and injustice makes a country stronger…An independent judiciary that upholds the rule of law, and free and fair elections so that citizens can choose their own leaders – these are all the rights that we seek for all people.”
President Obama said the reason the United States speaks out for these rights is not because “we think our own country is perfect – no nation is;” but “because we believe [human rights] are the birthright of every human being.”