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Violence against critical voices continues one year after disputed elections

One year after the disputed 12 June elections in Iran, the regime continues to tighten its grip and methodically crush dissent. IFEX members are calling on the Iranian government to release all imprisoned journalists and writers and end its repression of press freedom and free expression in the country.

When thousands took to the streets last year, chanting "What happened to my vote?" and "Liar," the regime responded with a vast operation to silence political protesters, critical journalists and activists, says Reporters Without Borders (RSF). To mark the anniversary, RSF and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) have launched a campaign to free the many prominent journalists still detained since last June.

Authorities sought to undermine the spontaneous demonstrations by suppressing photos and videos of the protests. Internet connections were slowed down and opposition websites were censored or blocked. Once foreign journalists were expelled, opposition voices were systematically crushed by the regime.

At least 170 journalists and bloggers have been arrested in the past year. Twenty-three newspapers have been shut down and thousands of web pages have been blocked. Journalists have been given unfair trials, coerced into false confessions, and tortured and raped in detention.

Authorities demanded exorbitant bail amounts for journalists, forcing families to borrow heavily, says RSF. Authorities also created blacklists of journalists that newspapers were forbidden to rehire; the vacant posts filled by members of the Revolutionary Guards.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and RSF, at least 37 journalists are behind bars and an additional 19 detainees are free on short-term furloughs. Many of them are under extreme physical and psychological pressure to "confess" to crimes they have not committed.

Iranians are far less informed today than they were one year ago. "Security agents have summoned many journalists to tell them they are being monitored and should be careful," said Iranian journalist Roxana Saberi on CPJ's blog.

Human Rights Watch reports: "Journalists, lawyers and civil society activists who used to speak to foreign media and human rights groups are increasingly reluctant, fearing phone and Internet surveillance." A statement released by the Iranian judiciary says 250 people have been convicted for offenses related to election protests. Two dissidents were executed in January, while others have been given confirmed death sentences.

The regime recently sentenced award-winning journalist Jila Baniyaghoob to jail for one year and a 30-year ban on writing. Baniyaghoob has worked for several reformist papers. She was honoured with Canadian Journalists for Free Expression's (CJFE) international press freedom award in 2009.

Narges Mohammadi, a journalist who is the spokesperson for Nobel Peace Laureate Shirin Ebadi's Human Rights Defenders Centre, was arrested on 12 June, reports RSF.

Canadian-Iranian "Newsweek" correspondent Maziar Bahari was imprisoned and beaten every day for four months last year. Since his release and return to London, Bahari has been part of an international campaign called "Our Society Will Be a Free Society," spearheaded by IFEX members. He has been speaking publicly worldwide advocating for the release of imprisoned journalists and activists in Iran. In May, a Tehran Revolutionary Court sentenced Bahari in absentia to 13 years in prison and 74 lashes.

ARTICLE 19 joined with Amnesty International UK, Human Rights Watch, Exiled Writers Ink, the International Campaign Against Violence, the One Million Signatures Campaign, Prisoners of Conscience and United for Iran in a week of events, "Unite for Iran", to ensure the situation of human rights in Iran is not forgotten and to support freedom of expression and information for every individual in Iran. People in more than 60 cities worldwide took part in events on and around 12 June.

At the UN Human Rights Council on 10 June, Iran rejected the appeals of the international community, including IFEX members, to respect the rights of its citizens.

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