UN calls on Iran to stop arresting journalists

UN human rights experts on Tuesday urged Iran to stop arresting journalists after a wave of detentions that it said was a "flagrant" violation of international law.

"The recent wave of arrests of journalists solely for carrying out their professional activities is a flagrant violation of Iran's obligations under international human rights law," four UN experts said in a joint press release.

Iran's intelligence ministry said last week that more than a dozen arrested Iranian journalists have been caught cooperating with a "Western-linked network" ahead of a presidential election in June.

The UN experts said at least 17 journalists had been detained, and said that arrest warrants and summons have been issued for several others.

Before these recent arrests, over 40 journalists were already imprisoned in Iran, they said.

They said they were concerned that the latest wave of detentions was part of a broader campaign to crack down on independent journalists and media outlets in Iran.

"The right to communicate with international organisations, including non-governmental ones, is a fundamental aspect of freedom of expression, and using such accusations to conduct mass arrests flies in the face of Iran's international human rights obligations," the experts said.

"It is disturbing that mass arrests and detention are being used in retaliation against the exercise of freedom of expression. Journalists must be able to speak and write without fear of persecution, arrest and intimidation," they added.

The UN experts, Frank La Rue, Malick El Hadji Sow, Margaret Sekaggya and Ahmed Shaheed, respectively monitor freedom of expression, arbitrary detention, the treatment of human rights campaigners, and the overall situation in Iran.