Today we wish to address the issue of the coverage of the human rights situation in Iran and by implication the aspect of freedom of expression via electronic media.
Several media outlets, in English and other European languages, have been putting more focus of late on the human rights situation under the recently-elected Rouhani – who, while being lauded as a moderate on the nuclear front, has also allowed executions to continue at an unprecedented pace. While leading Western rights NGOs such as Amnesty International have reported amply on the matter, the most recent report on it comes from The Washington Times, which recently quoted US intelligence sources as saying that “there are indications that the Iranian regime is executing more people now compared to just a year ago.”
Inevitably, where executions skyrocket, freedom of speech is also likely to be compromised; and indeed, numerous reports have been surfacing about censorship under Rouhani, ominous reports that stand in stark contrast to the president’s smiling demeanor.
Dissident filmmaker Jafar Panahi, imprisoned since 2010, warned earlier in February that not only did Rouhani possess a “streak” of Ahmadinejad’s “populism,” his regime was also attempting to establish a “new system of censorship” which would curtail freedom of speech in Iran even more than before:
In its pursuit of tighter control over freedom of speech, information and the press, Iran’s Rouhani is now teaming up with China – which has, according to Iranian Information Technology Organization head Nasrollah Jahangard, “four decades of good experiences in the information technology area” – to develop “clean” internet, according to the Azeri Trend news agency. Way to go for advancing press and information access!