With all the coverage of Rouhani, Zarif and nuclear talks, the media hasn’t devoted too much attention to the human rights situation in Iran. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a situation.
Take, for instance, the little-noticed Freedom House’s report on Freedom on the Net released in October, which determined that Iran possesses “some of the most comprehensive blocking and filtering capabilities, effectively disabling access to thousands of websites.”
The report detailed the numerous restrictions imposed on Iranian citizens, including limited access to social media, text messages and political, social and religious content, growing IRGC involvement in the telecom industry, blocked websites and services, censorship and surveillance coupled with harassment and intimidation, limitations on press activity, attacks against government critics and arrests – and even deaths – of bloggers bold enough to tackle pressing social and political issues.
In fact, out of all 60 countries surveyed by the report, Iran was ranked as the most restricted country in the world, coming in first with 91 points out of 100 (Iceland, in comparison, amassed 6, while the US and Germany amassed 17).
Furthermore, a recent UN report describing the “prevailing human rights situation” in the Islamic republic as warranting “serious concern,” also emphasizes “flagrant violations” of the right to free speech.
Of course, the new government in Tehran knows it has a problem; just recently, for instance, it announced a review of banned books. Still, Iran wants to have it both ways – slamming Western countries for jamming Iranian propaganda broadcasts, while at the same time shutting down the reformist press.
Bottom line: for now, anyway, it appears that censorship and limited free speech have survived the June election of Rouhani. Western journalists, free to report what they wish – unlike their less fortunate Iranian counterparts – should be reporting this fact with more rigor.